Thank you to everyone who commented on our recent survey about the changes you have noticed post-Covid-19.
Today, let’s define workplace violence, and subsequent costs
One of the first key points that must be established is how are you defining workplace violence?
In other words, providing examples in the first instance of some of the more common examples of abusive, threatening and violent behaviours; particularly from members of the public.
Secondly, we must not rule out or forget circumstances where abusive and/or violent behaviours may come from fellow employees.
There is a third circumstance but one none-the-less that can be ruled out, and that is when employees act abusively or violently to members of the public and these circumstances may mean that the employer is vicariously liable for the actions of their employee(s), and any subsequent actions which have an impact upon the health, safety and well-being of members of the public. Any civil action is likely to lead to an employer’s insurers having to meet any court costs, and pay any compensation awarded to the injured parties!
The Human costs
Individuals will respond differently to acts of violence and aggression towards them. One of the key factors behind this is related to how we as individuals ‘perceive’ the threat of violence towards or around us. One’s perception largely comes from one’s own lived experiences but additionally what s/he has learnt and been taught in training.
A person (ie; police officer or enforcement officer) is probably less likely to become upset by someone who is being verbally abusive, whereas a young and/or very inexperienced worker with very little or no training could be very upset by the same level of behaviour. Irrespective of whether you work in a Care Setting, Local Authority or an Enforcement Role as an employee you have a right, so far as is reasonably practicable, to be working in a safe environment.
Remember I have already mentioned it is down to how we as individuals perceive the threat of violence and aggression towards us! In addition to the physical injury or harm that might be felt or experienced by an employee we ‘must’ be more consciously aware of the psychological harm (ie; emotional stress) that an individual will experience any time they feel fearful or concerned for their safety, and/or fearful of the people around them.
How are we going to consciously know if a person (emotionally) feels concerned?
Let us look at an example of a traffic light system of risk management of incident types. Remember paragraph one, identifying what is meant by violence and aggression in your workplace area. This in turn will provide us with a threshold example of the types of behaviours that employees experience being displayed towards them that they are not comfortable/happy with:
Green = low level
Amber = medium level
Red = high level
Because all strategies should be based around ‘proactive’ measures to enhance safety, when an individual has experienced a ‘near-miss’ incident, that is the point they should bring it to the attention of their supervisor/team leader or manager.
…a ‘near-miss’ incident is a situation whereby you have not been happy with the way someone has behaved (verbally and/or non-verbally; ie; their body language) towards you but you have still managed to satisfactorily resolve the situation. You have not submitted an incident report! That said, and now that you can reflect on what just occurred, it may be that although you did not feel concerned enough for your safety at that time you now feel that you need to report the incident because you have some reservations about future meetings with that person(s). This is the stage where you should feel ‘empowered’ to raise your concerns with your supervisor/team leader or manager, to explain how the person(s) and situation made you feel. You should (must) be greeted with support to put measures in place that will enhance your safety, and feeling of confidence and wellbeing, before you have a further meeting with that person(s).
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a natural emotional reaction to shocking, sometimes deeply shocking, abnormal and disturbing experiences. Some of the initial symptoms leading up to PTSD include trembling, silence, emotional outbursts, crying, etc. Furthermore, serious problems such as not sleeping properly and loss of appetite can develop.
Shock is a more serve but common response by people who have been subjected to violence, and people who may have been around the incident. This can then result in the person:
Fear, anxiety and panic, lead to absenteeism from work
Feelings of anger or mistrust of others
Loss of confidence and/or concentration
Generally, a person suffering from PTSD has experienced or witnessed an incident/event which they felt was life-threatening or may have caused severe injury
The costs to an individual’s safety and wellbeing, staff morale or organisational workplace reputation cannot be quantified, other than to say the costs will be significant and emotionally draining to all concerned.
Whilst it is impossible to guarantee the removal of all risk, the standards we set to prevent, manage and resolve challenging, aggressive and violent behaviours lead towards you/your company ‘improving safety, and therefore ‘empowering people which in turn will ‘enhance services – to the customer, service-user, public you support.