Every employer has specific duties to protect their staff from work-related violence and aggression. This is not only from fellow employees, but also from customers and suppliers or any person they may come into contact with through the course of the working day. Violence and aggression is not just physical but also verbal.
Businesses also need to consider their sub-contractors, any freelance staff they may have or self-employed.
For guidance on what this includes please refer to the HSE website and their article guidance for employers on violence.
Employers have a requirement to provide their staff with adequate training around what to do should violence and aggression occur along with how to deal with any incident and what support should be given after an event.
A risk assessment of this risk should be completed and include any lone staff such as sales reps you may have out on the road. Lone workers are at higher risks due to the lack of support around and potentially being in unfamiliar areas.
Particular attention needs to be paid for new starters, trainees and other vulnerable staff as they are also often at higher risk
As an employee, there are things that can be done to avoid violence at work. These include:
- Looking after your personal health and safety and be aware how your actions can harm others in the workplace
- Keep up to date with and use the training and information provided by your employer to reduce the likelihood of these incidents or should one occur, how best to deal with an incident and how to deescalate.
- Make your employer aware of occurrences of violence or aggression in the workplace. This allows your employers to
- Work together with your co-workers and employer to better understand and comply with their health and safety requirements under law
Examples of workplace violence and aggression
There are different types of workplaces and industries where a vast range of incidents could occur. Some examples include:
- A customer disagrees with a crane drivers’ decision about where they should unload, the customer becomes verbally aggressive making threats and then becomes violent and tries to take control of the crane.
- A refuse collector is verbally threatened and almost hit by a car of a driver who overtook the collectors and their vehicle as the driver did not want to wait for them to move on.
- A shop worker refuses to serve a customer alcohol as they believe them to be underage and the customer is not able to provide ID proving their age – the customer then jumps the counter, forcibly knocks the worker to the ground and takes the alcohol which is displayed there.
In all of these examples, making the employers aware of the incident resulted in change in policy which brought more stringent health and safety measures to better protect their staff – such as plastic protectors in front of the tills for the shop worker or the refuse company completing more accurate route planning to avoid certain areas at peak times.
Aggression and violence, particularly if there are continued and/or serious verbal abuse or threats, can potentially cause physical and mental health ramifications. The Workplace Health Report 2023 found that 76% of workers report feelings of stress and 33% report that productivity is reduced when stressed.
By reporting any incidents of aggression or violence to your employer, this allows them to support you moving forward and work to ensure your health and satisfaction at work.
Employers should consider having access to confidential counselling services that they can point staff towards or there are multiple external charities which can offer support if required.