Stopping violence at work

Violence at work is more common in workplaces where workers have face-to-face contact with the public, particularly those that are required to handle money, e.g. in shops, bars and restaurants, off-licences.

People who work in care, including healthcare facilities, are also at risk, e.g. where significant changes in a service user’s usual behaviour might result in acts of verbal or physical aggression from the service user.

Work-related violence includes:

  • Physical violence – including kicking, spitting, hitting or pushing, as well as more extreme violence with weapons.
  • Verbal abuse – including shouting, swearing or insulting racial or sexual abuse.
  • Threat and intimidation.

What to do if there is a risk of violenceat work

Addressing the risk of violence is the same as dealing with any other possible cause of harm in the workplace and, as such, employers must undertake a risk assessment to determine if the risk exists and, if so, what steps are needed to eliminate or minimise the risk of harm.

When physical violence is involved, the injuries to those workers affected are usually obvious. However, workers who are subjected to constant and repeated verbal abuse and threats may suffer stress, anxiety and depression.

In order to help identify the risks associated with violence it can be useful to ask those employees who might be at risk of harm,including any young workers or those who work at night or alone, about any instances of violence or the threat of violence they have experienced at work and/or any concerns they might have. Looking back at accident and ill health records might also provide valuable information.

Once any risk/s have been identified employers will need to establish what controls and procedures they need to put in place to eliminate or minimise these, e.g.

  • Are there sufficient employees on duty to cope with crowds, customer queues or say an aggressive service user or client?
  • Train employees to spot early signs of aggression and how to avoid, prevent or deal with it.
  • Consider physical security measures, e.g. CCTV or alarm systems and coded security locks. Are security personnel required?
  • Support employees who fall victim to violence at work, e.g. with debriefing or specialist counselling and time off work to recover.

Records of any acts of violence towards employees must be recorded and investigated as these records can be used in risk assessment reviews to determine if anything else can be done to protect staff and any other person who might be affected by violence in the workplace.

Citation customers have access to a 24/7 advice line to enquire about issues such as violence in the workplace. To find out more of the services Citation provide get in touch now.

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