Key messages

  • Firearms or other weapons poses an increased risk to the safety of all visitors and staff in mental health settings.
  • There are guidelines for how health service staff should manage firearms and other weapons.
  • Health services should partner with local police to develop firearms policies and educate staff.

The Guide to better management of weapons in health services provides a series of guiding principles that govern how firearms and other weapons should be managed by health services and their staff.

These principles apply equally to employees, contractors, volunteers, visitors and consumers across all public health facilities, including outreach teams, home care and mobile services.

Managing risks of weapons

The presence of firearms or other weapons poses an increased risk to the safety of all visitors and staff in mental health settings, where illness and highly charged emotional states can coexist.

Health staff are bound to manage these risks by undertaking risk assessments, taking mitigating actions and, if necessary, seeking police assistance or advice to ensure that people do not endanger themselves or others.

Communicating about weapons

Health service providers must keep each other informed about any actual or potential risks a person may pose, including known dangerous behaviour or the previous use or possession of weapons.

Health services should clearly communicate that firearms and weapons are not permitted on their premises and that a person may be refused entry if they are in possession of a weapon. Services’ operational policies should integrate incident management strategies and Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles that proactively deter, detect and manage firearms and other weapons.

Although health service employees cannot search for firearms or weapons, a health service may impose a ‘consent to be searched for weapons’ as a condition of entry.If a search is conducted it should be undertaken with sensitivity and respect for a person’s dignity.

Working with Victoria Police

The effective and lawful management of firearms and other weapons in public health services requires close collaboration between health services and Victoria Police, and health services are urged to establish ‘health service–police partnership committees’ to help them develop and ratify joint agreements for the deterrence, detection and management of weapons.

These committees can also help to develop robust reporting and monitoring guidelines to support stricter controls on weapons and continuous improvements in services’ safety standards.