Workplace violence occurs where people, in the course of their employment, are verbally abused, threatened or physically assaulted. Violence and aggression are potential hazards in all workplaces where employees interact with clients and customers.

When an act of work-related violence occurs, the employee who is subject to the violence may suffer not only physical injury but also psychological harm. Psychological harm may show itself as a loss of self-confidence and an increase in feelings of fear and insecurity, loss of control and even panic. The after effects of violence can have a direct affect on business in terms of:-time lost in dealing with the incident, employee absence, employers’ liability costs and potential compensation claims. It can also lower morale amongst other members of the workforce and make it difficult to retain and recruit staff.

The law requires employers at each workplace to carry out risk assessments, to consider the hazards and assess the risks to health and safety from violent acts and identify the appropriate safeguards that should be in place.

Where risk of violence is identified physical controls may in some circumstances reduce that risk. For example, drugs should be stored under lock and key; entrances can be secured by key pad or intercom access systems; self-closing entrance doors, safety glass or ‘bandit screen’ enclosures or refuge may be provided,and panic buttons installed to enable staff to raise the alarm in the event of an emergency. These straightforward visible security arrangements will deter some potential violent events from occuring. Reception areas should be easily identifiable, accessible, adequately staffed and equipped with a bell (or similar) to summon assistance in the event of aggressive behaviour. The use of video surveillance (CCTV) should be highlighted along with warning signs, and suitable seating areas could also reduce risks in these areas.

Procedures should include steps to be taken after a violent incident has occurred. This may include the introduction of critical incident de-briefings and an Employee Assistance Programme for victims of workplace violence.

For information about our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) Products, please visit the business services page.