Violence

Abuse, assault and threats can happen at work.

Violence is a threat or incident of harm. Violence can also be psychological acts of harm. In a workplace, 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.

It includes:

  • verbal assaults or threats
  • 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.

Work-related violence can come from a range of sources, including:

  • organisational eg a colleague
  • client-related
  • opportunistic.

The violence can be perpetrated by:

  • clients
  • customers
  • patients
  • people in custody
  • members of the public.

Some workers are more likely to encounter violence in their jobs than others. This includes emergency services, health care workers, police, teachers and retail staff.

Preventing work-related violence

A workplace violence prevention program must be part of your overall health and safety program. It should be developed and implemented in co-operation with workers or their health and safety representatives. The program needs to be developed after you have done a specific risk assessment for violence in your work environment.

A violence prevention program needs to include the following components:

  • a written policy to eliminate or minimise risk
  • regular risk assessments
  • prevention procedures
  • worker and supervisor training
  • procedures for reporting and investigating incidents
  • incident follow-up
  • program review.
  • designing service delivery solutions if required.

Practical solutions to managing work-related violence can be found in our Preventing and responding to work-related violence guide.

Cash-in-transit

Safe Work Australia has information to help you manage the risks of transporting cash. Their specific Cash-in-transit information includes:

Responding to violence at work

Withdrawing from a violent situation is always the best course of action. Self-defence can be used when a person is under attack and believes it is life threatening but, the response must only be of sufficient force to enable the victim to escape further harm.

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 always be referred to NSW Police.

Training your workers

Training for workers on violence demonstrates an employer’s commitment to managing this risk.

To assist workers to understand, avoid and manage incidents of work-related violence, we have prepared an overview of topics for any work-related violence staff training program.

You can adapt these to the specific demands of your workplace.

What is violence and aggression

The types of work-related violence risks, possible sources, causes and triggers

Possible violence and aggression issues specific to your workplace

eg clients, customers, contractors, general public or co-workers

Legal rights of staff and clients

Including discrimination, harassment, assault, self-defence and protection of others

Your workplace policies and procedures on work-related violence

Strategies to prevent and control the risks, how to implement the strategies eg environmental design, workplace design, safe systems of work, operating security devices, reporting mechanisms, responsibilities.

Dealing with difficult clients, customers and members of staff

Recognising signs of escalating behaviour, warning signs that may lead to assault, de-escalation strategies

What to do during a violent incident

Detail the response action plan for violent situations including seeking assistance, response to alarms, communication procedures. Use role plays to practice so workers understand the physical actions that may be needed in extreme situations.

What to do after a violent incident

First aid, impact management, incident reporting procedures, debriefing, counselling, compensation, legal assistance

Provide training in self-defence

If your business has an unavoidably higher than usual risk of aggression or violence, eg in health or community service organisations, you might provide self-defence training. However, it is always preferable to withdraw from a violent situation.

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