Workplace violence resulting in death, major injury or absence from work for more than 7 days must be reported to the HSE under RIDDOR. In the UK during the period 2012/2013, there were an estimated 649,000 incidents of violence in the workplace of which 332,000 were assaults and 317,000 were threats to victims.

Work related violence occurs when someone is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work. Violence, which includes verbal abuse, threats or physical attacks, can come from people you know, as well as from strangers.

During the period 2012/13, of all work related violence in 60% of incidents the offender was unknown to the victim whilst in 40% of incidents the offender was known to the victim. In cases where the offender was known it was most likely to be either a client, customer or work colleague

People in service occupations, such as police officers, faced the highest risk of assault and threats while working, at 7.6% – over 5 times the average risk. Additionally, health care professionals and social care specialists had higher than average risk rates. These professions have consistently had a higher than average risk rate over the last number of years. Workers in caring and social professions and managers and senior officials had higher risk of workplace violence than the overall average rate of 1.4 per cent.

Physical attacks are dangerous, but serious or persistent verbal abuse can be a significant problem too, as it can damage an employee’s health through anxiety and stress.

Verbal abuse is slightly more common than physical attacks and they can cause psychological symptoms that can lead to physical symptoms including:

  • insomnia
  • loss of confidence
  • agoraphobia
  • guilt
  • thoughts of self harm
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • stress

Managers need to identify whether aggression and violence are problems for them and their workforce. They can minimise risks of violence to themselves and their workforce by:

  • provide training and information to help employees identify the early signs of aggression and to avoid it or deal with it.
  • improving public waiting areas, information about delays and physical security measures, such as CCTV, alarm systems and security doors.
  • introducing changes to the working practices – such as limiting the amount of cash on the premises by using cheques, credit cards and tokens, banking money more frequently, checking client credentials for meetings away from the workplace, accompanying workers if they have to meet a known aggressor away from the workplace, making sure that employees keep in touch when they are working away from the workplace.
  • setting up a system of reporting, investigating and monitoring any instances of violence, so that they can make more improvements if appropriate. The reporting system needs to be easily accessible, for example, an answer-phone service.

Managers should encourage workers to:

  • raise any concerns about the risks of violence
  • discuss workplace precautions with them
  • report any attacks to them, no matter how minor.

Violence in the workplace is just one of the many things that all managers must understand. If you or your managers need to improve the understanding of the health and safety issues that must be dealt with you should join us on one of informative courses.