Managing topics like workplace violence can begin with simple steps. Employee Factsheets, Director’s Briefings and Workplace Checklists can help with identifying risk and managing policy. Lauren Paines looks further into this challenging area of workplace safety.

 Violence at work is defined as “Any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work”.

Unlike many topics it can be complicated to manage, hard to quantify and even harder to communicate about. Clearly, certain industries and sectors deal with workplace violence far more than others, and it is learning about these areas and what the key risk factors are that is key to protecting people from this, often discounted, workplace issue.

One of the best ways to manage workplace violence is to stand back and look at the workplace objectively. As with any other risk assessment, key things to think about are the type of work being carried out, the people involved and the work environment. Coupled with this is looking at the stressors which often present themselves as factors leading to an episode of workplace violence.

Risk Factors include:

  • working with the general public (particularly in dealing with complaints)
  • lone working
  • handling large amounts of money
  • selling age restricted goods
  • working in an area of prevalent crime
  • working long or late hours.

Once these have been highlighted work can be done to reduce the likeliness of these factors become a realised danger.

Control methods include:

  • recognising early signs of aggression
  • identifying people with a history of violence or anticipating factors which might aggravate people / situations
  • giving regular information updates (including information about delays)
  • reducing the amount of cash handled in front of customers
  • avoiding lone worker situations, especially at night.

The final area to look at is policy, procedure and reporting (and the communication of these to the workforce / relevant persons). A violence at work policy (whether separate or incorporated into the health and safety policy) is essential for stating the business/ organisation’s ethos regarding violence in the workplace. It can clearly state the repercussions of such incidences and how the business will react in such circumstance.

Recommendations for employers include providing:

  • a clear statement explaining that violence will not be tolerated, along with information on how to make a report
  • a statement for overall approach to preventing and dealing with the risks (as above)
  • advice to workers on relevant legislation applicable to them
  • support to victims.

Procedure and reporting should be understood by everyone so that no case of workplace violence goes unnoticed and that incidents are dealt with correctly, in confidence and with the correct moral and legal implications.

Further information about violence in the workplace including specific information for employees and employers is available to download now.

Environmental Health Officers can also download a workplace checklist.

Have you had to deal with bullying, harassment or violence at work ? Did you get the support you would expect ? Please feel free to comment below.

Next week, I’m talking about the job of the Health and Safety Professional as a key communicator in the workplace.