Statistics pertaining to violence and aggression in the workplace obtained from the 2015/16 Crime Survey for England and Wales indicate that the risks associated with violence and aggression in the workplace are overlooked by employers. Although stringent measures were introduced by the Government to deal with violence and aggression, the figures are still staggering. There were an estimated 698,000 incidents of violence at work comprising of 329,000 assaults and 369,000 threats. This article highlights the responsibilities that employers have.

Tackling the risk of violence in the workplace is the same as dealing with other hazards, such as slips, trips and lifting heavy loads.

The legal bit

The five main pieces of health and safety law which are relevant to violence and aggression at work are:

  • The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act) states that employers have a legal duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees.
  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states that employers must assess the risks to employees and make arrangements for their health and safety. The risks covered should, where appropriate, include the need to protect employees from exposure to reasonably foreseeable violence.
  • The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) states that employers must notify their enforcing authority in the event of an accident at work to any employee resulting in death, major injury or incapacity for normal work for seven or more consecutive days. This includes any act of non-consensual physical violence done to a person at work.
  • Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 (a) and The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 (b) Employers must inform, and consult with, employees in good time on matters relating to their health and safety. Employee representatives, either appointed by recognised trade unions under (a) or elected under (b) may make representations to their employer on matters affecting the health and safety of those they represent.

In addition to fulfilling the duties stated in the above pieces of legislation employers have a further duty to provide training to reduce risks and ensure, where possible the health, safety and welfare of their employees. Although all employees who work with the public and in healthcare may at some point face a risk of violence and aggression, not all employees are faced with the same severity of risk. Therefore, an assessment of the employee’s needs and work environment should be undertaken when choosing the type and content of training to be offered.

Depending on the different working environments, the training can include theoretical or awareness training mainly for low-risk staff. More specific training could be offered to employees who may need to escape from a threatening or unacceptable hold including those who may need to de-escalate a situation. Training could also be aimed at employees who may have to contain a violent situation by using safe methods of control or restraint. Employers and employees should work together to establish systems to prevent or reduce aggressive behaviour.

For further information on the different types of violence and aggression training offered by Alcumus please speak to your health and safety consultant or contact us on 01484 439930.