As an employer you have an obligation to tackle violence at work under health and safety legislation. Failure to deal effectively with violence costs you in multiple ways, with poor staff moral, poor organizational image and extra cost through absenteeism, higher insurance premiums and compensation payments. Making a start to tackle violence at work makes good business sense and could pay dividends in improved productivity and reduced absenteeism.
There are five main pieces of health and safety legislation which are relevant to violence at work:
- The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSW Act)
- The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
- The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences 1995 (RIDDOR)
- Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977
- The Health and Safety (Consultations with Employee) Regulations 1996
You have a legal duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of your employees, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. This duty includes all forms of work-related violence, which HSE defines as: ‘Any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work’. This means:
- physical violence – including kicking, spitting, hitting or pushing, as well as more extreme violence with weapons
- verbal abuse – including shouting, swearing or insults, racial or sexual abuse
- threats and intimidation
Violence at work can cause pain and distress for victims, even disability or death. Although physical attacks can have a obvious effect, serious or persistent verbal abuse or threats can also damage the health of employees through stress or prolonged anxiety.
If you have a violent incident at work involving members of your workforce it is important to act quickly in order to reduce the effect of long term distress. Plan to support your employees before any incident occurs, so that the support mechanisms are already in place. As an employer you may want to consider
- Debriefing to give victims time to talk through their experience
- Time off work, possibly with special counseling
- Legal help in serious cases
- Providing training for other employees to help them react appropriately
- Reviewing you policies and procedures to reduce the possibility of occurrence
As good employers we can all work to help reduce the frequency and severity of violent incidents at work, and provide support for the victims if it does occur. Act promptly to reduce the cost of workplace violence to your business, and have a safer and happier workforce as a bonus!
Additional resources to help tackle violence at work: