Many businesses often overlook the risk posed by violence in the workplace and the fact that, like all other workplace risks, it’s covered by health and safety law. The HSE encourage all employers to manage work-related violence in the same way as any other H&S issue.
The HSE define work-related violence as ‘any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work’. They reported that in 2017/18 there were 694,000 incidents of violence at work, almost 70% of these resulted in minor injuries (bruising/black eyes).
The consequences of violence & aggression for a company can be far reaching not only for the victim but for the business/organisation involved. Victims can suffer from physical and psychological effects such as anxiety and stress. For their employers this can result in a financial cost with low staff morale and high staff turnover. Further costs can come from insurance premiums and compensation. This will ultimately affect their profitability and even reputation if the incident is serious enough.
The main areas of legislation covering workplace violence are:
- The Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act)
Under this Act as far as reasonably practical, employers have a legal duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees at work.
- The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
Employers must assess the risks to employees and make arrangements for their H&S by effective, planning, organization, control, monitoring and review. The risks covered should where appropriate include the need to protect employees from exposure to reasonably foreseeable violence.
- The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR)
This requires employers to notify their enforcing authority in the event of an accident in the workplace resulting in death, major injury or incapacity of work for three or more consecutive days. This includes any act of non-consensual violence.
- Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 (a) and The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 (b)
Employees must be informed of, and consulted, in good time on matters relating to health and safety. This will include any matters relating to work-place violence.
What this means for you
The HSE’s violence at work guide for employers includes a 4 stage management process:
- Stage 1 Find out if you have a problem
Like any other risk assessment, firstly you need to identify the hazard. Ask your staff, keep detailed records of any incident, classify all incidents and try to predict what could happen. Don’t restrict your assessment to those incidents which have already happened.
- Stage 2 Decide what action to take
Identify which employees are at risk, check the existing arrangements (training, environment etc), record your findings and review and revise your assessment.
- Stage 3 Take action
Include your policy for dealing with violence in your health & safety policy statement, so all employees are aware of it.
- Stage 4 Check what you’ve done
Review how well your arrangements are working on a regular basis, keep record of incidents and examine them regularly.
Ensuring employees are involved throughout the process will make them more likely to be committed to the measures put in place.
If violence remains a problem after implementing the management process, you may need to try a different approach. Go back to stages 1 and 2 and identify other preventative measures.
Violence & Aggression training
If you want to further support and engage your employees with the management of violence and aggression, you can look into arranging H&S training courses.
Alcumus PSM provide training on workplace violence and aggression, aimed at managers and all staff who deal with members of the public who could face possible violence and aggression.
This half day course is a basic introduction, which will give you an understanding of what workplace violence and aggression is and the risks/consequences. The course can be adapted to teach participants simple breakaway techniques and de-escalation skills.
If you have any questions about managing violence and aggression in your workplace, please contact the Alcumus PSM H&S Consultancy team on [email protected].
Alcumus PSM (People & Safety Management) specialises in human resources (HR) and health and safety (H&S) consulting for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Written by Steve Scott, Health & Safety Consultant