Workplace Violence – Hazards and Controls (Transcript)

The HSE has defined work-related violence as:

“any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work.”

Workers who deal directly with clients or customers may face aggressive or violent behaviour including verbal abuse, threats of violence and physical attacks. Fortunately, physical attacks are comparatively rare.

Workers engaged in the following areas of work are most at risk of occupational violence:

  • Giving a service
  • Caring
  • Education
  • Cash transactions
  • Delivery/collection
  • Representing authority

Effects of Workplace Violence

Workplace violence can have negative effects for the victim but also for the employing organisation.

For employeesFor employers
  • Pain, distress and even disability or death.
  • Psychological effects following violence may include:

o   Insomnia

o   Stress

o   Anxiety

o   Irritability

o   Loss of confidence

o   Agoraphobia


  • Poor morale
  • Poor corporate image
  • Difficulty with staff recruitment and retention
  • Extra costs from absenteeism, higher insurance premiums and compensation payments

Managing Workplace Violence

The first stage of a programme for managing workplace violence is to determine whether there is a problem, and if there is to assess the level of risk.

This can be accomplished through discussions with staff and the introduction of systems for the reporting and recording of violent incidents.

If there is a problem appropriate control measures should be devised, introduced and monitored to assure effectiveness.

Control measures will usually involve a combination of measures to:

  • Improve the working environment
  • Designing the job to reduce risk
  • Providing staff with appropriate information and training

Controls will vary depending on the areas of work. Some examples of effective control measures are given below.

EnvironmentJob DesignTraining and Information
In hospital A&E waiting rooms comfortable seating, better lighting, pleasant décor, means of passing the time and regular updates on waiting times has been seen to be effective.


In banks and bookmakers, the design of service counters can have an impact with wider counters and raised floors on the staff side of the counter offering staff improved protection.

Physical security measures such as video cameras, alarm systems and coded security locks on doors may also be useful.


Reducing the levels of cash handled and stored will reduce the risk of robbery.


Avoiding lone working situations and improving systems for tracking field based staff


Information systems can be used to forewarn staff of potentially violent clients.


Training can be given to enable staff to understand the triggers for violent behaviour, to avoid confrontation, to defuse situations, and if necessary to physically defend themselves or restrain an aggressor.


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