Work-related violence is generally any incident in which someone is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work.
Violence is a threat of harm (that can include psychological acts) that is enacted. In a work context it is the most extreme form of unacceptable behaviour. It covers a broad range of behaviours that can create a risk to the health and safety of workers.
- throwing objects
- pushing, shoving, tripping, grabbing
- striking, kicking, scratching, biting, spitting or any other physical contact
- attacking with knives, guns, clubs or any other type of weapon.
Workers can be exposed to work-related violence from a range of sources, which can be organisational, client-related or opportunistic. These can include clients, customers, patients, people in custody and members of the public.
How to prevent and respond to work-related violence
The foundation for managing risks resulting in psychological injuries at an organisational level is to manage work-related stress.
Practical solutions to managing work-related violence can be found in the Preventing and responding to work-related violence guide. The guide outlines PCBU and worker obligations explained in a risk management framework. it also provides information on managing client-related and opportunistic violence by providing deterrents such as removing motivations and incentives, providing physical barriers and security sensor systems, and designing service delivery solutions.
Training for workers on violence also demonstrates a PCBU’s commitment to managing this risk. To assist workers to understand, avoid and manage incidents of work-related violence, an outline of key topics that could be included is provided in this sample work-related violence staff training program.
Sample work-related violence staff training program
While the actual content of your work-related violence training program will depend on the particular needs of your business and your staff, here are some key things that could be included so staff can understand, avoid and manage incidents of work-related violence:
Outline of violence and aggression
The types of identified work-related violence risks, possible sources, causes and triggers
Overview of possible violence and aggression issues
That are specific to your workplace
Information on the legal rights of staff and clients
Regarding discrimination, harassment, assault, self-defence and protection of others
Your workplace policies and procedures on work-related violence
The strategies in place to prevent and control the risks and how to implement these strategies, eg environmental design, workplace design, safe systems of work, operating security devices, reporting mechanisms, responsibilities etc
Dealing with difficult clients, customers and members of staff
The training should include how to recognise the signs of escalating behaviour, the warning signs/situations that may lead to assaults and strategies on how to de-escalate the aggressive behaviour
What to do during a violent incident
Detail the response action plan for violent situations including availability of assistance; response to alarms; and communication procedures
Where practicable, use role-plays to practice this as it is more realistic and enables workers to practice the physical actions that may be needed in extreme situations
What to do after a violent incident
Include first aid, other impact management, incident reporting procedures, debriefing, counselling, compensation and legal assistance
Provide training in self-defence
If your business has an unavoidably higher than usual risk of aggression (for example) clients eg in health and community service organisations) you might provide training in self-defence. It is always preferable to withdraw from a violence situation. Self-defence can be used when the person under attack believes it is life threatening but the response should only be of sufficient force to enable the victim to escape further harm
Manager and supervisor training
Participants should have a thorough understanding of all of the above and must be trained in their specific duties
Violence or threats of violence
Work-related violence can fall within the scope of various state and federal laws. Physical assault, robbery, sexual assault and threats to harm someone should be referred to NSW Police.
Safe Work Australia has guidance material to help you manage the risks, especially while managing cash in transit.
Cash-in-transit specific information includes:
- the General guide for managing cash-in-transit security risks, which provides information for PCBUs on how to manage cash-in-transit security risks, usually involving armoured or non-armoured vehicle operations
- the Cash-in-transit information sheet, which provides advice for small businesses on managing risks from cash-in-transit activities
- the Guide for handling and transporting cash is directed at businesses handling or transporting cash 'in-house', for example where a worker or business owner transports cash from the workplace to a bank, rather than engaging a security provider for these services.