ACC staff in line of fire

STEVE KILGALLON
Last updated 05:00 24/03/2013

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The Accident Compensation Corporation has stripped logos from staff cars after some were rammed off the road, employed a fulltime security adviser to "mitigate risk" and posted security at the home of its former chief executive after a threat from a disgruntled client.

ACC refused to disclose details about a threat to former chief executive Ralph Stewart in late-2011, but the Sunday Star-Times understands it resulted in security staff being posted at his home.

ACC said only that it was "a non-specific threat made by a client while the CE was at home".

A spokesman admitted that logos were removed from company vehicles in 2010 after several staff were "rammed or driven off the road by other drivers".

The corporation has revealed there were 134 threats made to staff by clients in the past year - an increase from 106 in 2009-10 and 131 in 2010-11. It also spent nearly $25,000 to produce a staff DVD on how to deal with abusive or threatening clients.

The majority of staff threatened were case managers making "difficult" decisions on clients' cases, ACC said.

After an Official Information Act request, the corporation said 116 staff faced threats of violence or death between February 29, 2012, and January 31, 2013.

ACC, which has about 1750 staff nationwide, has been forced to call police on several occasions over staff threats.

It issued four trespass notices and eight written warnings to clients, made notes on the files of 14 clients and, in seven cases, the management of the claim was "reviewed due to safety issues".

The security adviser had been a longstanding appointment dating back about a decade, said ACC, and was employed to respond to incidents, to develop safety strategies, offer training and assess risks.

Among recent cases where clients have shown their disapproval of ACC, 42-year-old Mataura man Sean Muir was given a sentence of seven months' home detention last December after threatening to fill his car with urea bombs and diesel and drive it into the Invercargill ACC offices.

In July 2011, North Shore beneficiary Alan Thomas, 55, was sentenced to 10 months' home detention after planning to explode a van full of explosives and nails outside a branch office.

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