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Workplace Violence

What is Workplace Violence?

Workplace violence is any physical assault or act of aggressive behaviour occurring where a public employee performs any work-related duty in the course of his or her employment, including, but not limited to:

  • An attempt or threat, whether verbal or physical, to inflict physical injury upon an employee.
  • Any intentional display of force which would give an employee reason to fear or expect bodily harm.
  • Intentional and wrongful physical contact with a person without his or her consent that entails some injury.
  • Stalking an employee with the interest in causing fear of physical harm to the physical safety and health of such employee when such stalking has arisen through and during employment. 

Workplace violence falls into four broad categories.

  1. Violent acts by criminals who have no other connection with the workplace, but enter to commit robbery, violent attack or another crime.
  2. Violence directed at employees by customers, clients, patients, students, inmates, or any others for whom an organization provides services.
  3. Violence against co-workers, supervisors, or managers by a present or former employee.
  4. Violence committed in the workplace by someone who doesn’t work there, but has a personal relationship with an employee—an abusive spouse or domestic partner.

Type-1 workplace violence incidents are the most dangerous behaviours and actions, these often occur in areas that have direct public contact along with available cash or other items of high value. Unfortunately, in these types of acts, the offenders usually are armed with a gun, knife or other weapon.

Countermeasures will include a broad range of crime prevention measures including Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), barriers, cash management techniques and electronic systems, including video surveillance systems and public view monitors. Often, these measures make customers feel safer.

Type-2 workplace violence will be most prevalent in organisations that deal with large client populations. Hospitals, schools and universities all fall directly into this risk category.

In hospitals, for example, emergency room and psychiatric intake areas will face greater risk than other hospital areas. Risk reduction should focus on methods that reduce tension. Employee training should include, listening and de-escalation techniques, including effective customer service skills.

Organisations should develop prevention plans along with plans for reacting and surviving these types of incidents.

Type-3 workplace violence tends to be highest in organisations with large employee populations, particularly in areas where employees work closely together under stressful conditions. These acts are often inappropriate touching, verbal and physical threats, assaults and acts of aggression.

The company must also have quick access to resources for evaluating the seriousness of problems that are observed or reported.  Assessing risk is critical to the development of a workable response plan. 

Type-4 workplace violence is often more of a threat to female employees and can also be one of the hardest to deal with since the symptoms of impending violence can be difficult to detect. Training and communication are the keys to developing a successful prevention program.

Planning requires an organisation to look at each aspect of their organisation to analyse their potential for risk. Risks will vary widely with each organisation.

Workplace violence can have lasting effects on the victims, co-workers and the community. The cost of doing nothing and ignoring the problem can be very costly to an organisation.

As with most other risks, prevention of workplace violence begins with planning. Conduct a security risk assessment, ensure that there are policies and procedures to deal with such acts and provide regular training in preventive measures for all new/current employees, supervisors, and managers.

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