Updated: Dec 6, 2022
Where to start?
Let’s start with the fact that there is an attacker, a person and the interaction; the environment in which the interaction takes place is also a factor which needs to be considered.
The assailant (attacker) – we often use headings such as an aggressor feeling irritated, frustrated, angry, aggressive, etc; as an indicator of levels of behaviour. These levels of behaviour can range from the way someone stands and stares at you, to the way they intrude on your personal space. This is very often referred to as "someone is in your face!" The aggressor could be assaulting you; by directly blocking your exit path, physically touching, pushing or hitting you; who may have some form of deliberated weapon in their possession or in proximity to the interaction space.
The person/employee – people who have a public-facing role can be in significant danger from interaction with the public. It is recognised that other people/employees, subject to their roles, are also at risk from other people. Other people could be employees/staff, often referred to as internal challenging behaviours.
What are some of the more well-known roles where people/employees are faced with the risk of violence at their workplace:
● Health service workers – are amongst those most at risk from violence and aggression, from those they are trying to help.
● Cash handling roles – premises and people who handle and store large amounts of money are targeted. This places them at greater risks and therefore there are usually robust security measures in place.
● Local authority staff – those working in housing, community, benefits, etc., are supporting people who may be anxious, and sometimes desperate for a quick resolution.
● Educational staff – not only are staff experiencing verbal abuse and physical assault from parents, but pupils have been known to be violent and/or aggressive towards staff, and not still within the classroom setting.
● Lone workers – covers a wide range of people/employees and sectors. This relates to anyone who works on their own for a ‘protracted’ time. There are roles where people/employees permanently work on their own, visit people in their own homes or other people’s work premises.
People who work on their own in a remote part of a building, are also classed as lone workers. All lone workers should carry/have some form of alarm device so that they can ‘raise the alarm’ before a situation goes wrong!
● Enforcement roles – the most obvious of these is the police. People/employees are expected to exit and therefore move away from danger. Police officers are expected to, safely and effectively, move towards danger.
Although frequently faced with violence, the police service like other sector workers is subject to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HAS ’74).
One of the general duties of an employer under the HSA ’74 is to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees!
The interaction (where/how it may take place) – The first thing to keep in mind is how is the person’s behaviour making you feel. Refer to my previous blog posts and newsletters where I spoke about how we may physically/emotionally feel about the uncertainty of danger or fear!
In addition to some of the points (the person/employee), the interaction you are involved with could be whilst you are providing customer service to others. It could be that you are in a delivery/collection of goods role. Additionally, your thoughts about the person's negative behaviour, your perception of their perceived strength and your attitude. The locality where the interaction is taking place will also be a major factor, as where the task is being carried out!
Back to the question, How do we know who is at risk of violence and aggression in the workplace? From the forenamed data, the employers have a general duty for your health, safety and welfare in the workplace/workplace setting. To meet the duty of care you have for yourself in your workplace if you feel abused, threatened or assaulted at work, "we must submit incident reports". You’ve probably heard it before, but I am going to say it (write it) again;
"if it was not written down, it did not happen".
Not strictly true but I trust you get the meaning after this statement. I have earlier noted the Health and Safety Executives' definition of work-related violence (ie; reportable incidents).
Why report an incident?
Reported Incidents provide the employer with the types of violent and aggressive incidents types ‘you’ are facing at work. Furthermore, incident reports will provide data which can be analysed, and provide the frequency, trends, etc; along with intelligence data on the types of incidents occurring during certain interactions with the public. Overall, this will provide information for risk management assessment reviews. In other words what can realistically be done to reduce, isolate or control the risks related to your safety regarding known incident types?
Through the reporting of incidents of violence and aggression, you can play a very active part in improving your safety at work.
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