Some workers are at an increased risk of violence either because of where they work, or the type of work that they do. The employer has a legal duty to provide and maintain a safe and healthy workplace, and safe and healthy systems of work. This includes taking all practicable measures to reduce the risk of violence.
Make it safe! Action for health and safety reps
- Talk with your members, particularly those who have to work alone for at least some of the time, as they may be more vulnerable. Discuss with them their ideas and issues.
- Ensure an assessment is done to identify risk factors such as: lone working on and off site and other potential hazards.
- Investigate if jobs can be re-organised to provide a safer system of work, including ensuring there are adequate numbers of staff. Download the Workplace Violence Safety Audit to assist you.
- Ensure that members report and document all incidents.
- Raise any concerns or issues of security with your employer as soon as possible.
- Contact your union for further advice. Many unions have publications and policies on violence. Some examples include:
- The Australian Nursing Federation - Zero Tolerance Policy.
- The Ambulance Employees Association of Victoria has issued guidelines for members at risk of violence.
What does the law say?
The employer's duty of care to employees under common law covers more than the work they are doing and workplace conditions to include potential exposure to risk from the foreseeable conduct of third parties.
And more specifically, the employer has a duty under the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act (2004) to provide and maintain for employees, as far as practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. This includes providing a safe system of work, information, training and supervision. The employer has the duty to take all reasonable steps to reduce the risk to employees. The employer must consult with the OHS reps and the workers in these situations.
WorkSafe has a topic page on Occupational Violence and aggression as well as other materials such as:
- Guide for Employers: preventing and responding to occupational violence. (May 2017)
- Preventing occupational violence against health workers - a brochure Topics covered issues such as environmental design to prevent violence, and the legal obligations of healthcare providers.
Who is at risk?
There are large numbers of workers who are potentially at risk of violence from third parties. These include:
These workers confront or have confronted violent/potentially violent/ drunk/aggressive/drug affected third parties or clients.
VTHC Webinar (March 2022): Occupational Violence and Aggression - with special guest Ms Kathy Chrisfield, ANMF OHS Lead Organiser.
From the Australian regulatory authorities:
- WA WorkCover has a very good violence topic information page. It has also has:
- A Code of Practice - Violence, Aggression, Bullying at Work [pdf]
- and Armed Hold-Ups and Cash Handling: A Guide to Protecting People from Armed Hold-Ups to provide managers and employees in businesses where cash is handled with information on work practices and principles of workplace design which help to reduce the incidence and severity of armed robbery. The guide also covers the type and scope of training needed by staff to cope with violence and the procedures for minimising post-traumatic stress.
- The UK Health and Safety Executive has a webpage on Work Related Violence. Information, such as the booklet Violence at Work - A guide for employers [pdf] can be downloaded from here.
- A resource from the UK retail union, Usdaw: a model policy statement Preventing Violence to Retail Staff
- The ILO site has sector-specific information (eg Violence at work in hotels, catering and tourism, Violence and stress in education workplaces) and a long list of relevant international websites.
Last amended April 2022
Bullying - what is it?
What is bullying and what are its effects?...read more
Bullying - Legal Standards
The employer has a duty to identify any bullying at the workplace and control it....read more
Bullying - Action plan for reps
Advice for reps on how to tackle bullying....read more