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Violence in the workplace

Published April 1, 2015 (last updated on April 18, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Content Writer

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What is considered workplace violence?

Workplace violence and aggression occur when an employee is abused, threatened, or assaulted by either a co-worker, employer, manager, customer, or member of the general public.

In essence, the definition of workplace violence extends to any action or behaviour that could lead to an incident that impacts the health and safety of an employee.

What are some examples of workplace violence?

According to WorkSafe Victoria, a person is may be acting aggressively if they are:

  • Rolling their eyes or sneering

  • Yelling, swearing, or calling people names

  • Standing over someone

  • Spitting, shoving, tripping, grabbing, hitting, or punching anyone

  • Threatening someone with violence – both with and without a weapon

  • Carrying out an act of sexual assault

How to deal with violence in the workplace?

It is an employer’s responsibility, as far as is reasonably practical, to provide and maintain a safe and healthy work environment for all your employees, customers, visitors, and members of the general public.

In the first instance employers will be expected to have assessed potential for workplace violence and eliminated the risks as far as possible. As this is hard to guarantee in most workplaces, the employer will then be responsible for managing to further reduce the risk of the outstanding risks.

The management style that is opted for is dependent on the type of violence and the severity of the situation. Having a clear policy will provide clarity on this situation and keep employees informed on how to best respond if caught off guard in a violent situation in the workplace.

What is a workplace violence policy?

A policy on workplace violence will provide employees with a clear understanding of the parameters of violence and aggression, equip them with appropriate responses, and inform them of potential consequences.

The workplace violence policy should also specify that behaviour of this sort is a form of gross misconduct which can be grounds for immediate dismissal.

Below are factors to consider when drafting a violence policy and managing workplace violence:

  • Identify violence and aggression hazards in the workplace through a risk assessment

  • Consult with employees to implement controls to reduce or eliminate instances of violence

  • Enforce a zero-tolerance policy on all violent behaviour

  • Encourage employees to report instances of violent behaviour to the company in a clearly outlined manner

  • Provide training to help employees to learn how to de-escalate a violent scenario and the processes for early intervention and management

  • Provide ongoing counselling and support to all employees who have been personally affected by workplace violence

What can employers do to prevent workplace violence?

Workplace Violence Prevention Strategies and Training

Whether an employer wants to prevent internal workplace violence (i.e. between employees) or violence involving customers and the general public, onsite training is an effective way to give employees the skills and knowledge they need to handle a violent scenario.

Employers can select from several reputable third-party training providers, who can potentially provide training from the convenience of your own worksite. These training sessions help employees to:

  • Report, recognise, and defuse a potentially violent situation – before it erupts

  • Understand their and the employer’s legal duty of care

  • Familiarise themselves with procedures to deal with armed robberies, bomb threats

  • Learn hospital code black training which may be relevant to employees working in the health care industry

  • Study conflict resolution procedures

Depending on the provider, employers may have the freedom to customise the contents of the training course to suit the business so that employees learn how to deal with situations that relate specifically to their worksite.

Employsure will help you effectively deal with violence in the workplace. For peace of mind, please call our 24-hour Advice Line now on 1300 651 415.

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