Workplace violence and aggression
While the vast majority of people would say that their firm is firmly opposed to violence in the workplace, it is important to understand the broader concept of workplace violence. Violence in the workplace is not solely related to physical assaults, it is an act where any person has been threatened, abused, intimidated or assaulted in their place of work.
Some examples of workplace violence and aggression include:
- Threatening behaviour such as property destruction or the throwing of items
- Threats, either written or verbal
- Harassment which includes any behaviour intended to embarrass, demean, annoy, humiliate, abuse or alarm
- Verbal abuse including swearing, insults or language of a condescending nature
- Attacks of a physical nature including kicking, pushing, shoving or hitting
Workplace violence or aggression can also include pranks, spreading rumours, sabotage, vandalism, theft and trauma. It is also important to note that workplace violence can occur outside the traditional working environment. This includes any violence or aggression which may occur at an individual’s home but which arises from a work related issue.
Workplace violence statistics
While the number of violent incidents recorded at work in England and Wales has declined over the past decade, the rate of incidents has stayed at a level rate in recent years. The following statistics are of note with respect to workplace violence and aggression:
- In the latest Crime Survey for England and Wales, a total of 323,000 working age adults currently in employment have experienced some form of work related violence or aggression
- The latest figures indicate that there were a total of 649,000 incidents in the past year, breaking down into 332,000 assaults and 317,000 threats.
- Findings suggest that 1.2% of women and 1.6% of men suffered from workplace violence in the previous year
- Of the victims who actually reported workplace violence, 60% reported one incident, 16% experienced two incidents and 24% experienced a minimum of three incidents
- Findings suggest that 51% of all workplace assaults result in injury.
What factors can impact on violence and aggression in the workplace?
It is important for employers to be aware of issues that can cause or lead to violence and aggression in the workplace. Employers have a duty of care to their employees and they have requirements with respect to violence and aggression health and safety aspects. Some of the features employers and employees should be looking out for include:
Certain work factors, processes, and interactions can put people at increased risk from workplace violence. Examples include:
- Handling money, prescription drugs or valuables
- Carrying out enforcement duties or inspections
- Providing a level of education, care, service or service
- Working in premises with a licence to serve alcohol
- Working alone or in isolation
- Working in a community based setting
- Working in a mobile environment
- Working in periods of organisational change and uncertainty
Findings also suggest that the threat of violence may be increased at certain times, or even times of day. Examples include:
- Working in the late hours of the night or the early hours in the morning
- During tax returns
- During the holidays
- On payday
- During performance appraisals
What can employers do?
There are steps an employer can do to minimise the likelihood violence and aggression in their workplace including review the history of violence in their workplace and asking employees about any experiences or concerns they have. It is important to review incident and accident report books, first aid records and any other health and safety record which may provide an insight into injuries occurring which have not been reported. Businesses should carry out their own risk and threat assessments, determining if they are at risk of violence in the workplace. Similarly, it is of benefit for employers to examine industry standards and any violence or aggression instances of similar businesses.
Seeking advice from external experts and reviewing industry standards is a good starting point for any business reviewing their health and safety standards but it is important to focus on the culture, atmosphere and employees of the individual company.