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Matthew Ramsey


Violence at Work

Employers are responsible for the health, safety and welfare at work of everyone contracted to work for them, as well as any other people who may be affected by their work activities.

What is work related violence?

The HSE definition has long been “Any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work”, and the recent update to guidance also clarifies: “it is also important to remember that this can include verbal abuse or threats, including face to face, online and via telephone, and physical attacks.

This might include violence from members of the public, customers, clients, patients, service users and students towards a person at work.”

What is the impact of work-related violence?

Work-related violence can have a devastating impact on workers as well as bystanders who may witness the incident. The impact include:

  • Injury and pain from physical violence
  • Stress, anxiety, depression and fear as a result of both physical and verbal aggression
  • Potential of workers refusing tasks they deem unsafe, leading to reduced work output
  • Increase to worker sick leave
  • Higher staff turnover, meaning more recruitment and associated costs
  • Damage to organisation’s reputation as it is perceived to be an unsafe workplace
  • Higher insurance premiums
  • Increased compensation payments

What causes violence at work?

There are many possibilities on root causes of violence and aggression, but aggravating factors can include:

  • Alcohol / Drug use by customers or the public
  • Disgruntled customers or former employees
  • Quiet times of the day – early or late
  • Working alone, or the perception of working alone

How can I reduce the risk of violence at work?

When risk assessing violence and aggression you should consider

  • The workplace – is it open to the public (such as retail), or is it a secure entry office? Is there CCTV?
  • The work – workers who have power over the public such as traffic wardens, the emergency services and train or bus conductors often face a higher amount of aggression at work. They’re also usually Lone Working which increases the risk further.
  • Training – has there been any de-escalation or managing violence training provided to staff? This is an excellent way of letting your workers know that violence and aggression is not acceptable in the workplace and should be reported, as well as making them more aware of when trouble might be brewing.
  • Emergency procedures – have your emergency procedures been communicated to staff? Are they aware of any panic buttons and importantly do they work? Empower staff to recognise when panic buttons should be used and explain what happens when these are triggered.
  • Reporting – are your employees aware of what they can report and how to report? A clear reporting procedure including escalation and follow up is key to seeing patterns and trends. Reviewing these reports allows the employer to assess if further controls need to be implemented, and if the controls they have are working.

Having trouble with violence and aggression at work? We work with employers to identify and control risk, so get in touch with us to see how we can help.

We also offer in-person training courses on Violence at Work, as well as an e-learning course on Introduction to Personal Safety for Lone Workers.

Our content is correct at the date of publishing, but should not be taken as legal advice, and our articles don’t replace Risk Assessments. Armour will not be held accountable for any legal actions the reader may take.