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Violence in the workplace. handshake

Violence in the workplace.

Aggression and violence can occur in any workplace in a range of forms. From verbal abuse, to threats and physical assault, these actions can cause physical and psychological harm while posing the risk of short-term and long-term consequences for any business.

Acts of violence can manifest between colleagues, customers, and the general public. Unfortunately, not all cases of violence in the workplace are reported as people either turn a blind eye or the victims themselves are too afraid to speak up.

Implementing good business policies and practices to discourage violence and aggression can help create a safer work environment.

Sources of violence in the workplace.

External violence is generally associated with robbery or other crimes and the offender is someone from outside the workplace. This type of violence can happen in any industry but often occurs in the retail, hospitality, security, cash-handling, finance and banking industries.

Service-related violence arises when providing services to clients, customers, patients or prisoners and occurs within the workplace. It is especially prevalent in the hospitality, retail, health, aged care, disability, youth services, education, and enforcement industries. Service-related violence is an everyday risk to a worker’s health and safety.

Internal violence can occur between two or more staff members, or between employers and employees. Employers should ensure there is a policy in place to resolve workplace disagreements peacefully to avoid any risk of escalation to violence .

What is the True Cost of Violence in the Workplace?

Violence can have a significant impact on any business. It can lower employee morale, reduce retention rates and – if the business gets a bad reputation for being unsafe – makes it harder to attract new staff.

Employee absence due to work-related violence can impact productivity, and offering counselling and support is costly for the business. Employers can also be liable for compensation claims if they fail to reduce the risk of violence and offer support for victims.

How to Reduce the Risk of Violence at Work.

Work health and safety laws are designed to ensure the health and safety of workers and others in the workplace. ‘Health’ includes both physical and psychological health.

Employers are required to perform risk assessments to analyse not only health and safety hazards in the workplace, but also risks of violent behaviour. By identifying these hazards, employers can put safeguards in place to create a safe working environment.

When identifying and assessing the risk of violence at work, and when making decisions about the ways to eliminate or minimise the risks, employers should engage employees. This can be done by implementing an appropriate means for workers to report incidents or concerns about violence at work.

Studies have shown the presence of visible security devices can deter violent behaviour. Review the current security systems in-place and consider the following upgrades:

  • install keypads and intercoms to access certain areas
  • install self-closing entrance doors
  • replace standard glass with 12mm toughened safety glass and install screen enclosures
  • install panic buttons in places where employees and customers are situated, if this appropriate

How to Manage Incidents of Workplace Violence.

When a violent incident occurs, it must be addressed as soon as possible. The first and most critical step is to ensure all employees and visitors are safe.

Start a formal investigation into the matter while providing support and stress relief for those affected by the incident. If an act of violence was committed by an employee, follow the standard disciplinary procedure for serious misconduct. Depending on the circumstances, the employee might be able to be dismissed without notice. See our guide on Serious Misconduct for more information.

After the incident, review the current workplace violence policy and make changes where necessary to improve the overall system.

Workplace Violence Policy.

Besides making physical changes to the layout and security of the building, it is important to implement good workplace polices that curb violent behaviour.

First, implement a workplace violence policy into the employee handbook. This should clearly outline the following:

  • the types of behaviour that define work-related violence and aggression
  • the responsibilities of all employees and managers to prevent work-related violence
  • responding to acts of violence and aggression in compliance with company policy
  • who to notify for incident reporting
  • emergency response plans
  • stress debriefing and ongoing support
  • disciplinary procedures

For advice on how to create a violence workplace policy and managing workplace violence, contact Employsure on 0800 675 700.

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Employsure is New Zealand's leading workplace relations specialist, working directly alongside employers to set the solid foundations for...
Auckland 201- 500 employees

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