Do You Have A Strategy for Preventing Workplace Violence?

By Matthew Reymes Cole
12 Jun 2018

In 2016/17, there were 642,000 reported incidents of violence at work. In the same period, 326,000 adults claimed to experience workplace violence.

What is Workplace Violence?

Claims of violence carry serious implications for any employer. A claim of violence, abuse, or harassment can quickly escalate. For this reason, it's important to define what workplace violence actually is. The HSE defines work-related violence as "any incident in which a person is abused, threatened, or assaulted in circumstances related to their work." So, to put it in simpler terms, that is any form of verbal abuse, threat, or physical abuse or assault. The term "workplace violence" doesn't just refer to actions by violent employees, it can also include violence committed by the general public towards an employee.

How Can I Prevent Violence at Work?

Some occupations will be more predisposed to violence than others. For example, employees working in care homes may occasionally have to deal with unpredictable individuals under their care. Similarly, those who work with the general public will be at higher risk than those working in an office. It is your duty as an employer to assess potential threats and address them in your health & safety policies and procedures. A clear statement to staff that you will not tolerate violence or verbal abuse is a good start. Include a clause that encourages staff to report incidents. Keep an eye out for employees who aren't getting along. If you think a workplace dispute could escalate, address it with an informal meeting.

Are There Any Workplace Violence Laws to Protect My Employees?

There are five pieces of health & safety legislation that relates to violence at work, these are:

  • The Health and Safety at Work Act (HASAWA, 1974).
  • The Safety Representative and Safety Committees Regulations (1977).
  • The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations (1996).
  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999).
  • The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR, 2013).

So, of these workplace violence laws, the following are the most significant: Section 2 of HASAWA states that employers have a duty of care to employees because violence is a foreseeable risk. Additionally, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states that employers must consider the risk of foreseeable violence, decide how significant those risks are, and determine how best to prevent or control those risks, and under Regulation 3 must complete a risk assessment. Finally, RIDDOR states that employers legally must report any injury, incapacity, or death as a result of workplace violence, to the authorities.

The Consequences of Workplace Violence

Treat violence at work with the severity it deserves. Not only does violence affect the well-being and morale of your employees, but it can also lead to:

  • Employees taking time off work.
  • Potential health & safety issues.
  • Civil claims and employment tribunals.

An act of violence towards an employee can also have a devastating effect on the morale of the rest of the workforce. The law supports the employee when it comes to ensuring their safety at work. If an incident occurs and the employee makes a claim, there is a high possibility that costly legal action comes next. You must make sure you have adequately assessed and controlled the risks of workplace violence.

Expert Views

For any help in handling incidents of violence at work or aggressive employees, contact Croner on 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Matthew Reymes-Cole

Matt joined Croner in 2007 as an employment law consultant and has advised clients of all sizes on all aspects of employment law. He has worked within management positions since 2017 and currently oversees a team within the litigation department, whilst continuing to support a number of clients directly.

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