Violence in the workplace - young workers' guide

WHAT IS WORKPLACE VIOLENCE?

There are two main types of violence in the workplace:

  • verbal or written abuse or threats
  • physical attack on a person or property

Behaviour that scares or implies immediate physical threat to you is violence, just as much as physical assault. Workplace violence can be carried out by people outside your work, by your clients or customers, or by anyone within your organisation.

Examples of violence include:

  • abuse over the telephone
  • sexual assault
  • malicious damage
  • armed robbery
  • written threats

WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?

Different situations may call for different action, depending on how severe and immediate the threat of violence.

In general, if you feel under threat:

  • stay calm
  • do not provoke the aggressor
  • withdraw yourself from the situation
  • try not to get isolated
  • do not confront or pursue the offender
  • defend yourself only as a last resort
  • report it to your manager or safety committee representative

Often, workplace violence follows a pattern of increasing aggression, which may involve:

  • annoyance
  • raised voices
  • verbal threats and physical gestures
  • actual physical violence

Be aware of these signs so that you can avoid the situation getting worse.

WHAT SHOULD MY EMPLOYER DO ABOUT IT?

By law, your employer must take reasonable steps to ensure your safety at work.

If you work in a role that is particularly at risk of violence – such as in hospitality, welfare or transport – make sure that your employer has assessed the risks and taken appropriate steps to minimise them.

Ways to control the risks of workplace violence include:

  • providing a secure work environment
  • installing physical barriers and security systems
  • removing any incentive for violence (eg not holding cash)
  • training and supervising staff
  • changing work processes

If your employer doesn’t have a written risk assessment, get them to contact SafeWork for advice.

WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?

For general guidance, read SafeWork’s publication Violence in the workplace.

If your workplace has particular security systems or risks of violence – ask your employer for appropriate training and supervision.

If your employer does not help or you still feel at risk, contact SafeWork directly.  We can also give you or your employer specific advice on the risks in your workplace. For more information, call 13 10 50 or visit our website safework.nsw.gov.au

Back to top