Violence and Agression

by Darren Good and Liz Hudson

Your duties as a manager

Employers and, by extension, their managers have a duty to protect their employees. This duty of care extends to other people who come into contact with their organisation, including customers, delivery drivers, contractors and other visitors.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 clearly states that ‘employers have a legal duty to ensure so as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees’.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 place an obligation on employers to assess risks and, where necessary, take action to eliminate or control the risks.

The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 say that employers must notify their enforcing authority in the event of an accident at work to an employee.

Aside from the legal obligations, there are many other reasons to manage violence in the workplace. These include

  • Securing the safety and well-being of employees and colleagues
  • Improved morale and the benefits this brings for both employees and employer
  • Protecting the public image of the organisation
  • Reducing costs, such as insurance premiums.

Four-stage process

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published a leaflet INDG69 aimed at employers, and this recommends a four-stage process for the effective management of work-related violence:

Stage 1   Find out if you have a problem

Stage 2   Decide what action to take

Stage 3   Take action

Stage 4   Check what you have done.

We won’t go into the details of these stages here, as the seven-page HSE leaflet is freely available online from www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg69.pdf (also see the Violence homepage on the HSE website at www.hse.gov.uk/violence/index.htm).

Policy document

If you work in a larger organisation, it is likely that you already have a policy document on work-related violence. As a manager, you should be familiar with this document, particularly if the area of work that you are responsible for has an elevated probability of violent or aggressive incidents. If there is no such document, then your organisation is skating on very thin ice and this should be brought to the attention of the senior HR person.

It is not, of course, enough for you to be conversant with the policy; you must also ensure that all employees to whom it is relevant have a copy of it. Research into lone workers carried out on behalf of the Royal College of Nursing by Maria Smith of Sheffield Hallam University and published in May 2007 found that although 82.4 per cent of those questioned stated that their employer had a lone worker policy, some 17.3 per cent of these had not been provided with a copy of it.

Note

Violence can happen in any business at any time.

HSE has funded the development of new National Occupational Standards in the management of work-related violence. These standards were published by the Employment National Training Organisation in September 2002 and provide employers with a framework on which to develop detailed policies on WRV.

There are a large number of resources available from the HSE site.

Employee skills

As a manager, you must ensure that your staff are equipped with the ideas, skills and equipment that will enable them to carry out their jobs safely and with confidence. These could include

  • Corporate safety strategies
  • Personal safety awareness
  • Managing expectations
  • Conflict resolution
  • Anger management
  • Personal alarms
  • Separation skills
  • Escorting and holding techniques
  • Rescue techniques
  • Incident and post incident management
  • One-to-one and group confidence restoration.

Determining what levels and what to include within staff training is part of the process of developing a policy on work-related violence. If in doubt, consult with a specialist in this area.

Post incident

If an incident does arise, how do you handle it? Any incidence of violence at work needs to be dealt with quickly to avoid unnecessary distress. To speed things up, you should have a plan in place that outlines what to do.

Questions to consider include

  • Does the victim need medical attention?
  • Does the victim need counselling?
  • What needs to be done to support colleagues of the victim?
  • Were there any witnesses?
  • Should the police be called?
  • Is the abuser identifiable?
  • Are future internal sanctions, such as denying service, appropriate?
  • Is there something, such as making changes in the working environment, that can be done to help prevent future incidents?
  • What training needs does the incident highlight?

If you are in any doubt at all about what your plan should include, it would be best to consult with your HR department and maybe an external consultant who specialises in work-related violence.

Records

Statistics relating to incidents will help you to identify trends and prepare for preventative action. Use a form to keep records of incidents in your workplace and ensure that these are collated centrally to help you to develop an overall picture.