Violence and aggression in the workplace
Employees who may deal directly with the public in their workplace may face aggressive or violent behaviour; this may include verbal abuse, physical violence and/or threats and intimidation.
There were over 34,000 serious assaults in England and Wales in 2011 that led to victims attending hospital due to their injuries. On Friday and Saturday evenings 70% of all violence comes from in and around premises licensed for the onsite sale and consumption of alcohol. In 2011, an estimated 7000 assaults leading to attendance in hospital occurred inside a licensed premises. At peak times, nearly three out of four A&E admissions are alcohol-related with the majority of violence-related injuries stemming from activities in the night time economy.
Both employers and employees have an interest in reducing violence in the workplace. Violence can lead to poor staff morale and a poor image for the organisation, making it difficult to recruit and keep staff. It can lead to work-related stress, poor performance, extra costs with absenteeism, higher insurance premiums and compensation payments.
Employers have a legal duty under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees. There are a number of ways employers can reduce the likelihood of violence and aggression in their workplace, which include looking at the work environment, working practices, training, legal options available and partnership working.
Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers must assess the risks to workers and any others who may be affected by their work or business. All employers should carry out a systematic general examination of the effect of their undertaking, their work activities and the condition of the premises. Those who employ five or more employees should record the significant findings of that risk assessment. The assessment should include the risks involved to those who may be exposed to violence.
The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 require all employers and other ‘responsible persons’ who have control over employees and work premises to report to the relevant enforcing authority certain accident, occupational diseases and dangerous occurrences in the workplace. This includes acts of violence to staff. Only physical injuries resulting from acts of violence suffered by people at work are included; the requirement to report does not extend to verbal abuse.
For further information on how you can manage work-related violence in your workplace, there is a leaflet which can be downloaded for free from the Health and Safety Executive’s website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg423.pdf