Guide to Management of WORKPLACE VIOLENCE

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Guide to Management of WORKPLACE VIOLENCE Powered By Docstoc


This publication provides practical information to persons who have a duty of care under the
ACT Occupational Health and Safety Act 1989 on how to manage workplace violence.

This Guidance Material, issued by the Commissioner for Occupational Health and Safety on
20 October 2000, was developed in consultation with stakeholders including the ACT
Occupational Health and Safety Council.


1. Introduction                                                                          3
   What is workplace violence?
   Which areas of work are most affected by workplace violence?
   Why is workplace violence a problem?
   How can workplace violence be managed?

2. Planning and Preparation                                                              6
   Step 1: How to identify hazards
   Step 2: How to assess risks
   Step 3: How to control risks
   Step 4: How to monitor and review

3. Immediate Response                                                                    16
   Implementing response procedures
   Emergency management
   Worker assistance programs

4. Recovery and Review                                                                   18

5. Legal Responsibilities                                                                19
   Duties of employers
   Duties of employees
   Workers harmed by other workers

   Duties to protect visitors

Appendix 1: Workplace Violence Checklist                                                      21
Appendix 2: Examples of Risk Assessment Forms                                                 24


Violence can be a significant workplace hazard. It may cause physical and psychological harm
and may result in permanent disability and even death.

Violence may come from outside or inside the workplace — from members of the public,
customers, clients, patients or students, or from supervisors, managers or other workers.

Employers need to take steps to protect workers and other people in workplaces from violent
incidents that may cause injury or other trauma. Apart from the need to protect people from
harm, there can be significant direct and indirect financial costs if the issue is ignored.

What is workplace violence?

Workplace violence is any action or incident which causes physical or psychological harm to
another person. It includes situations where workers and/or other people are threatened,
attacked or physically assaulted at work.

It also includes non-physical violence, such as verbal abuse, harassment, intimidation and
threatening behaviour, which may also significantly affect a person’s health and well being.

Threats may be perceived or real, and there does not have to be physical injury for the
violence to be a workplace hazard.

Harassment of any sort is a subtle form of workplace violence. It may be intentional, or it
may simply result from a lack of awareness and understanding of various cultural, religious or
other factors affecting an individual or a group.

Workers may be affected by workplace violence even if they are not directly involved.

Which areas of work are most affected by workplace violence?

National occupational health and safety and workers’ compensation data show that nearly half
the workplace assaults resulting in injuries or lost time from work are in the health and
community services industry. This includes workplaces such as hospitals, institutions for the
intellectually handicapped, aged care facilities and prisons.

Overall, the workers most frequently assaulted are nurses and other hospital staff, welfare
officers, security guards, prison officers, childcare workers, teachers aides and teachers.

There is a higher risk of workplace violence for people who work alone in community
settings. This applies to workers such as estate agents, taxi drivers, bus drivers and newspaper

People who work alone at night may also face added risks. This applies to workers such as
pizza delivery drivers and workers in service stations, chemists and video outlets.

The threat of robbery or attack is significant for workers who handle cash, drugs or valuable
merchandise, such as cashiers, pharmacy assistants and bank tellers.

Workers who deal with members of the public in service industries and Government agencies
are also likely to be exposed to some forms of violence. This applies particularly in agencies
administering public housing, services to children and families, and social security.

New workers, such as apprentices and trainees, may be subjected to humiliating and
dangerous initiation ceremonies.

Why is workplace violence a problem?

Workplace violence can result in considerable direct and indirect costs for the organisation.
In addition to the financial costs of absenteeism, lost productivity, higher insurance premiums,
medical expenses and repairing property damage, there is the personal cost of emotional
trauma suffered by the victims and their families.

Violent incidents can affect productivity by reduced morale, impaired performance,
absenteeism, increased sick leave and a high staff turnover. In some cases work may stop
altogether, and some workers may not be able to return to work for quite a period of time.

Reactions to workplace violence can continue for a long time after the incident. If the
incident and workers’ reactions are not actively managed, the impact of the incident can be
very damaging.

The reaction of individuals usually depends on the nature of the incident, the workers’ own
experiences, skills and personality, and the extent to which they are directly or indirectly
involved. It is likely, though, that workers affected by workplace violence will experience
some common reactions, such as:

• Immediate body changes associated with distress, such as increased heart rate and
  breathing rate, muscle tension and nausea
• Feelings of anger, protest and frustration
• Feelings of being out of control
• Anxiety and shock
• Feelings of guilt and embarrassment, especially if they think they failed to respond
• Irritability and loss of concentration
• Sleeplessness and nightmares for some time after the event
• Fear of returning to work.

Workers may not feel secure at their workplace. They may feel threatened and lose trust in
their clients or customers.
Returning to the scene of a violent incident may bring back memories of the distress that
occurred at the time, and some workers may be overwhelmed by a fear of similar events
happening in the future.

It is important to recognise and manage these reactions very quickly after the violent event, so
the situation does not become worse.

Whilst support services should be available to people who are affected by workplace violence,
it is also important to remember that people vary in the way they react to certain situations.
There may not be any reactions that need to be managed, and for some people this will be
quite normal.

How can workplace violence be managed?

It is useful to develop strategies to manage workplace violence for each of the three phases
before, during and after, an event:

BEFORE:                         Prepare a Workplace Violence Management Plan to eliminate
PLANNING AND                    or reduce the impact of workplace violence and introduce
PREPARATION                     measures to reduce risk.

                                Train workers to provide them with the skills to recognise and
(See Part 2)                    defuse a potentially violent incident and teach them how to
                                respond if one should occur.

DURING:                         Implement emergency plans and response procedures
IMMEDIATE RESPONSE              developed for particular situations and take action to contain
(See Part 3)                    violent incidents if and when they occur.

AFTER:                          Restore the work processes, return things to normal as soon as
RECOVERY AND                    possible and provide support and counselling to workers to
REVIEW                          minimise the impact of the incident.

(See Part 4)                    Review violent incidents to identify areas in need of

The rest of this Guidance Material suggests the steps which can be taken to manage
workplace violence during each of these three phases.

The recommended approach to managing workplace violence is to eliminate the opportunity
for violent or threatening behaviour to occur. If workplace violence cannot be prevented,
planning should focus on reducing the impact on the people, the workplace and the work
processes. Workers should be prepared and confident that they will know what to do if a
violent incident occurs.

A documented plan to pro-actively manage violence at work should be prepared in
consultation with workers and/or their health and safety representatives. This Workplace
Violence Management Plan should include the following steps:

1. Hazard identification: Identify situations where workers and visitors to the workplace
   may be subjected to workplace violence
2. Risk assessment: Work out which violent situations are more likely to cause injury or
   harm to workers and visitors, and how serious the injuries or harm might be.
3. Risk control: Take action to prevent or reduce the risk of injury and harm.
4. Monitor and review: Regularly check the implementation and effectiveness of the risk
   control measures.

The responsibility for completing these four steps rests with employers, contractors, self-
employed persons and anyone else who has control of a workplace. This process should be
completed before anyone begins work in areas where violence is a hazard.

Workers should be involved in the process of identifying potentially violent situations and
determining the best ways to prevent workplace violence. It may be necessary to also seek
specialist advice and assistance, e.g. security agents, police or support services.

Step 1: How to identify hazards

This part of the process is about identifying possible situations where workers and other
people may be physically or psychologically harmed by violent behaviour. It is often difficult
to find a reason for every violent outburst, but there are some common factors which may
apply to a workplace. Violence, abuse and threats at work may occur for various reasons,

• Criminal activity, thrill seeking or revenge
• Mental instability
• The influence of alcohol or other drugs
• Expression of irritation or frustration, such as dissatisfaction with poor service
• Feeling aggrieved due to unfair treatment, whether real or imagined
• Intimidation, used to achieve a desired outcome
• Built-up anger from past or non-work related situations, applied unreasonably to the issue
  at hand
• Uncomfortable physical conditions
• The general culture of the workplace and an acceptance of violent behaviour, such as
  intimidation, initiation ceremonies, harassment or the use of strong, abusive language
• Feelings of loss of control

• Prejudice: cultural, religious, political and other differences between groups in society.

There is often a combination of personal and environmental factors influencing the situation,
which require a range of strategies to appropriately manage the risk of violence. If the reason
for the potential violence can be identified, and if it can be changed, there is a greater chance
that the amount of violent and aggressive behaviour can be reduced.

Different sources of information can be used to identify situations where violence may occur
in workplaces. For example, you could:

• Talk to people who have experience with workplace violence in your industry.
• Talk to workers and allow them to communicate their concerns regarding workplace
• Survey workers in confidence regarding any incidents that have caused discomfort and any
  situations that had the potential to become violent (near misses).
• Collect information about the risks of violence in workplaces similar to yours.
• Check your accident reports and injury records to identify previous incidents.
• Observe work practices and inspect parts of your workplace where violence may be a
• Set up a system to encourage workers to report violent incidents.

A checklist (refer to Appendix 1) can be used to assist in the identification process.
Inspections of the workplace should be carried out by more than one person to take account of
varying perceptions of risk.

At this stage, it is not necessary to make decisions about whether something should be done or
the type of action to be taken. The focus is on identifying all situations where there is a
potential for violence, so that each situation can be examined in more detail. However, if
something obvious can be done to fix a problem, it should be dealt with immediately. The
relevant people should be informed of any action taken.

Step 2: How to assess risks

The nature and extent of each situation identified in Step 1 should be carefully analysed, to
determine which situations are more likely to cause injury or harm to people in the workplace
and how serious the injuries or harm might be.

•   What is the likelihood of workers recognising potential violence and understanding the
    action needed to eliminate the risk?
• How likely is it that someone will be injured or harmed if they are involved in a violent
• How serious would the injury or harm be if something did happen?
• How many people would be affected?
• How often would these people be exposed to the risk of injury or harm from workplace
In assessing the level of risk, you need to take account of both the likelihood and the potential
consequences of each violent situation. You also need enough information to understand the
factors which could escalate violent behaviour and make the situation worse.

For example, a workplace with several different counters, taking public enquiries, payments
and processing applications of various types, would need to consider the following risk

•     Staffing arrangements:
      – The experience, knowledge and skills of counter staff.
      – Staffing levels to cope with peak periods.

•     The approach to customer service:
      – Whether the workplace is capable of meeting customer expectations or demands.
      – Whether customers can easily identify the correct counter for the service they need.
      – The time people have to wait.
      – The design of waiting areas.

•     Security arrangements:
      – Money handling procedures.
      – Barriers between customers and staff who handle cash.
      – Surveillance systems and alarms for staff in need of assistance.
      – Communication systems.

Risk could be high, medium or low in different areas of your workplace. Focus on the
situations likely to occur most frequently and which could cause the worst injuries. These
should have high priority and should be addressed immediately. If a violent incident could
hurt someone but probably never will, give it a lower priority, to be dealt with at a later date.

The risk assessment process should be documented as part of the Workplace Violence
Management Plan. For guidance, refer to Appendix 2 for examples of a Risk Assessment
Form for two different workplaces where violence has been identified as a hazard. In the first
example, the workplace is a nursing home and the people involved are workers, residents and
visitors. In the second example, the workplace is a shop and the people involved are workers
and customers.

Step 3: How to control risks

The third step involves taking action to eliminate the situations which may result in violence
and/or reduce the risk of injury or harm.

The best way to control a hazard is to remove it. If this is not practicable, the risk should be
reduced as much as possible by applying the other approaches in the hierarchy of controls
listed in the box below. Control measures near the top of this hierarchy are more effective
than those near the bottom, and should therefore be adopted wherever practicable. Control
measures near the bottom of the hierarchy are more difficult to maintain, and should be
regarded only as interim measures until more permanent controls can be implemented.
In many cases a combination of different actions may be required to reduce risk to an
acceptable level.

a) Eliminate the hazard          This is the most effective way to make the workplace safer.

              ↓                 Always try to get rid of the hazard completely.

b) Use a safer alternative      If you cannot eliminate the hazard, try to replace the work
             ↓                  process with something less hazardous.

c) Use engineering              Where appropriate, make changes to the workplace or to
   solutions                    equipment to reduce the risk of injury or harm. Examples
                                include installing security systems, setting up barriers,
              ↓                 lighting certain areas, providing signs to direct people to the
                                area they are looking for and providing appropriately designed
                                waiting rooms.

d) Reorganise the work          Make changes to the way work is organised to reduce the
   and provide training         risk of injury or harm. Examples include job rotation to
                                reduce time in stressful situations, work schedules that ensure
              ↓                 workers are not alone at night where there is risk of attack,
                                establishing a visible security presence and providing training
                                and supervision.

e) Provide personal             Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used to
protection                      provide greater protection for the worker or as a temporary
                                measure whilst other risk controls are being organised. PPE
                                should not be the only control, as it is the least effective
                                way of dealing with hazards. PPE should be used in
                                combination with other methods to reduce risk.

Each of these control measures is explained in more detail below, and examples are provided.

This is a guide only. It is quite acceptable to use other ways of reducing risk, so long as the
end result is achieved and the risk of workplace violence is eliminated or reduced as much as

a) Eliminate the hazard

Key principle: Change the system of work to completely eliminate the trigger for workplace

       In some situations it is possible to pinpoint the exact reason or ‘trigger’ for workplace
       violence. If this ‘trigger’ can be completely eliminated, the work can be carried out
       without the threat of violence.

       For example, the electronic payment of wages directly into workers’ bank accounts
       completely eliminates the need for wages cash deliveries.

b) Use a safer alternative

Key principle: Replace a hazardous procedure with a less hazardous one.
                                             - 10 -

       If the hazardous situation cannot be eliminated, there may be safer alternatives that
       will reduce the risk. For example,

       •   For delivery people who receive cash payments as part of their day-to-day
           activities, non-cash payments should be considered.

       •   In situations where cleaners work alone at night, moving from building to building,
           the night cleaning could continue with less risk of attack if the cleaners worked
           together, cleaning one building after the other, rather than working alone in
           different buildings.

       •   In situations where people are waiting for a service, it may not be possible to avoid
           delays. However, the people waiting would be less likely to confront workers if
           there is a good customer communication system and they know what to expect.

       •   Removing potential weapons in public areas, such as paper spikes and scissors,
           would reduce the opportunity for a violent situation to become worse. Clips, files
           and other safer alternatives could be used to secure papers.

c) Use engineering solutions

Key principle: Design the building or structure to provide for safe systems of work.

       When designing a building, vehicle or structure or planning the layout of a work site, it
       is important to consider the hazardous situations that have been identified and the
       measures which are likely to permanently reduce the risk of workplace violence.

       For example, the design may include features such as security doors, permanent
       screens, security lighting, alarm systems and communication systems.

       Workplace layout and design should also allow for ‘escape routes’ and avoid dead
       ends where workers are unable to retreat to a safer place when necessary.

       Design is also an important consideration in purpose-built vehicles such as armoured

Key principle: Make changes to the working environment.

       Where the workplace is in an existing structure or building, structural changes can be
       made to add the features described above. Examples are:

       •   Improving security and lighting
       •   Redesigning waiting areas to provide comfortable surroundings
       •   Providing play corners so children are occupied and quiet
       •   Installing high counters and other barriers.
                                             - 11 -

Key principle: Use physical barriers to separate workers from customers, clients or members
of the public who may cause them harm.

       Physical barriers can be used in a variety of situations, such as:
       • Reception areas where there are likely to be aggressive clients
       • Workplaces where workers handle drugs, cash or valuables, and
       • In prisons, hospitals and psychiatric facilities where there is the risk of attack from
          inmates or patients.

       Examples of barriers to protect workers include electronically controlled doors that
       allow a full view of visitors before the doors to workplaces are opened from the inside,
       and security doors where access is via a security card or code. Screens may also be
       used in work settings to reduce the risk of attack from clients.

       Barriers may also be needed to protect visitors or other clients at the workplace,
       especially in:
       • Psychiatric hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities caring for people who may
          become violent, and
       • Workplaces such as police stations and Government agencies, where there may be
          outbursts of violence from offenders or distressed people in interview rooms and

d) Reorganise the work

Key principle: Provide training in communication, how to handle aggression and how to
respond to aggression or violence.

       Poorly trained workers can contribute to a situation becoming unmanageable.
       Managers and employees at a workplace should be adequately trained to increase
       awareness and provide the skills necessary to deal with violent situations.

       Training should be provided at induction, at regular intervals and in response to
       weaknesses in skills identified after a violent incident. It can be conducted in-house or
       by external trainers and should cover the following:
       • Responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1989
       • Causes and types of violence
       • How to recognise the potential for violence in a person’s behaviour
       • The identification, assessment and control approach for managing workplace
       • Incident reporting and recording
       • Client service skills
       • Negotiation skills
       • Communication skills
       • Basic self-defence
       • Legal issues relating to violence and self-defence, including the concept of
           ‘reasonable force’
       • Emergency and response procedures
       • Worker assistance programs
                                              - 12 -

       Training could also include the need for tolerance of others within a workplace,
       understanding cultural differences, as well as the development of good communication
       between workers to promote a positive working environment.

       Training should be competency based. This means the training should include ways of
       demonstrating practical skills and assessing the trainees while they are demonstrating
       their new skills.

       The training should also be evaluated to ensure workers have acquired the skills they
       need to work safely. On-the-job supervision should be used to reinforce the new skills
       learned in the training courses and ensure each worker continues to put them into

       If the work is changed in any way, additional information, instruction, training and
       supervision should be provided to make sure workers’ safety knowledge and skills are

Key principle: Set up work arrangements so that assistance is available when it is needed.

       Stressful work situations, where there are not enough workers to handle the business
       of the day, may result in frayed nerves and short tempers. In these situations, workers
       may lose control of the situation more easily.

       Job rotation may be used to reduce the amount of time workers are in stressful
       situations, especially when they are new to the job.

       Adjust rosters or upgrade staff levels to avoid persons working alone in situations
       where there is a known risk or during peak times. A new or inexperienced worker
       should be paired with a more experienced worker.

       If a sole worker situation is unavoidable, ensure that there is effective, rapid
       communication with emergency services or on-call staff.

       Arrange rosters to help staff be as alert as possible. Fatigue can contribute to the
       inability to deal with a violent situation. In a school setting, for example, if there are
       students with a history of aggression, there should be a system to ensure support is at
       hand for any teacher who needs it.

       Refer clients who need detoxification, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and psychiatric
       treatment to other services if your facility is not designed to deal with these problems.

Key principle: Set up effective communication systems between workers to ensure they are
aware of potentially violent situations.

       In situations where workers interact with people who may be violent, the transfer of
       information from one worker to another helps each person to be prepared for a
       potentially violent incident.
                                             - 13 -

       This especially applies in prisons, detention centres, psychiatric hospitals, nursing
       homes and other health care facilities when the care of inmates or patients is handed
       over from one person to another at various times during the day.

Key principle: Set up effective communication systems to be used in an emergency.

       This is especially important for people who work alone, such as transport workers, but
       also for ‘field’ workers who are often required to work in unfamiliar environments.

       Mobile phones, intercoms, duress alarms and beepers should be available for rapid
       emergency contact with other staff or emergency services. Emergency telephone
       numbers should be readily available and should be displayed or on automatic dial.

Key principle: Use monitoring and surveillance systems to improve security.

       Video monitoring and observation mirrors may be used as part of a security system.
       However, their use should always be in accordance with any relevant legislation.

       Signs should be displayed to indicate the presence of security systems.

Key principle: Establish written policies and procedures for specific tasks or situations to
reduce the risk of violence.

       Examples include procedures for:
       • The safe storage of personal property
       • Cash handling
       • Field work or call outs with potential for violence
       • Handling suspect mail (letters or parcels)
       • Client intake and assessment procedures, taking into account the clients needs and
          the capacity of the service to meet the clients needs.

Key principle: Use administrative procedures to separate workers from customers, clients or
members of the public who may cause them harm.

       Examples are agreements that workers will only provide a service when clients are
       sober and procedures that prevent customers from contacting workers out of business
       hours. Refusing to provide unknown callers with workers’ home phone numbers and
       addresses is another approach that could be used.
Key principle: Co-ordinate the administration of the system for controlling violent incidents.

       Employers should demonstrate a commitment to reducing the risk of violence in the
       workplace by providing the resources needed to manage any situation where violence
       may disrupt work.

       Disruptive incidents present a complex administrative challenge that should be under
       the direction of a senior person in the organisation.

       Management responsibilities should be allocated to properly integrate the management
       of violent, disruptive incidents into the workplace’s emergency management plan.
                                             - 14 -

       All workers should clearly understand their roles in the event of a violent incident.

Key principle: Establish clear policies on violence between co-workers.

       Workplace policies should make it clear that management will not tolerate any activity
       deliberately designed to humiliate, degrade or embarrass other workers. These policies
       should cover activities such as harassment, initiation ceremonies and practical jokes,
       which can cause physical injury as well as psychological harm.

       There are legal responsibilities for both management and workers in these situations.
       Management has a general duty to ensure that workers are not exposed to hazards at
       the workplace, and workers have a responsibility to avoid adversely affecting the
       safety and health of other people through their actions at work.

e) Provide personal protection

Key principle: Use personal protective clothing and equipment.

       Personal protective clothing and equipment (PPE) should be made available to provide
       greater protection for workers or as a temporary measure while other risk controls are
       being organised. It should not be the only control used, as it is the least effective way
       of dealing with workplace violence.

       PPE may include protective body gear or riot gear in some workplaces, such as prisons
       or high security detention centres.

It is important to remember that the risk control measures and key principles set out in this
Guidance Note should be used together to reduce risk to an acceptable level. In most
situations, this will involve a combination of job redesign, changes to the working
environment and administrative procedures.

Step 4: How to monitor and review

Monitor the results of changes that have been introduced to reduce the risk of violence, using
a system where workers can provide regular feedback, and make more modifications if

At first, it is a good idea to deal with situations where workplace violence may occur as a
specific exercise. Once a system for monitoring and review has been set up, it may be easier
to make the management of workplace violence part of the workplace’s overall safety
management system, with all hazards being monitored and reviewed on a regular basis.

Hazard identification, risk assessment and control are continuous processes that need regular
reviews to ensure the actions taken are still effective and new hazards have not been
                                              - 15 -

Where it is not practicable to completely eliminate all opportunities for violent or threatening
behaviour, the management plan should include response procedures which must be followed
when violent incidents do occur, so the harmful effects can be minimised.

Procedures should be developed for dealing with particular situations, for example:
• Armed hold-ups
• Physical violence
• Verbal threats or threats received over the phone
• Responding to alarms

The procedures should address the following questions:
• How do workers seek assistance?
• If the area needs to be cleared of people, under what circumstances and how is this done?
• How should workers respond to an aggressor’s request?
• What observations should workers make?
   For example, noting personal characteristics and clothing to help identify the aggressor.
• What steps need to be taken following the incident?
   For example, attending to injured persons, reporting the incident to the employer, police,
   etc. and preserving evidence which may be helpful in an investigation.

When a violent incident occurs in a workplace, ideally all of the planning should result in a
well co-ordinated, immediate response, with the agreed procedures being followed in
accordance with the training provided. If this does not occur, the incident should be seen as a
learning experience and feedback used to improve the system in preparation for future

Emergency management

The management of workplace violence should be part of an overall emergency management
and response system, set up to deal with emergencies of all kinds. This wider emergency
planning should aim to:

• Reduce the level of risk to lives, property and the environment
• Control any incident and reduce its impact on the workplace, and
• Provide the basis for the training all people who could be involved in any emergency at the

Responses to an incident are a real test of the extent to which the various parts of the
emergency management system are working.

Worker assistance programs

Worker assistance should be available as part of the immediate response and recovery phase
of violent incidents, to minimise the effects of trauma.
                                             - 16 -

Workers should know who has the authority to take charge of the situation if violent incidents
occur. This person should be trained in how to co-ordinate responses, including the care of
workers who may be injured, in shock or affected by the incident in other ways.

The main focus of worker assistance is to provide immediate professional counselling and

General arrangements such as allocating a safe place to retreat to, controlling media access to
the workers, communicating with families and arranging transport home are also important to
relieve the immediate pressure on workers.
                                            - 17 -

Recovery is the phase of reorganisation and reconstruction to return the workplace to normal
operations after the immediate impact of a violent incident has passed.

At this point, the workplace should have been made safe, with first aid and medical assistance
arranged as necessary and the immediate support for affected workers provided.

The workplace may be in disarray if there have been injuries or property damage, but the
situation should be under control.

The recovery phase is about workers returning to their normal duties as quickly as possible
after the disruptive incident. In this phase, previously agreed plans should be implemented as
quickly and efficiently as possible, to reduce the risk of long-term problems.

The following actions should be part of the process:

• Provide clear information to all workers.
• Provide ongoing professional counselling and support services for workers and their
• Allow workers time to recover, but encourage an early return to work as part of the
  recovery process.
• Provide advice on legal matters and workers compensation arrangements as appropriate.
• Investigate the incident and review safety management to reduce the risk of injury or harm
  in the future.
                                             - 18 -

The objective of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1989 (the Act) is to create safe
working environments. Under the Act, the following persons have a duty of care for the
health and safety of all persons at or near the workplace:
• Employers
• Persons in control of a workplace
• Self-employed persons
• Employees
• Manufacturers, suppliers and persons erecting or installing plant in a workplace.

Duties of employers

Employers are required to take all reasonably practicable steps to protect the health, safety and
welfare of their employees at work. This includes:
• Providing and maintaining safe workplaces, machinery and systems of work
• Providing employees with information, instruction, training and supervision to enable them
  to perform their work safely
• Consulting with employees and their health and safety representatives
• Providing personal protective clothing and equipment
• Providing appropriate medical and first-aid services

The Act also requires employers to report deaths and certain work-related injuries and
diseases to the Commissioner for Occupational Health and Safety.

Duties of employees

Employees are required to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and to avoid
harming the health and safety of other people at work. This includes:
• Following workplace policies and procedures
• Using personal protective clothing and equipment provided by the employer
• Reporting hazards and/or injuries to the employer
• Co-operating with employers so those employers are able to carry out their general duties.

Workers harmed by other workers

Employees’ duty to avoid harming the safety and health of other people at work includes a
duty to avoid harm to their co-workers through physical and verbal abuse, threats and
intimidation. This includes threats by managers and supervisors and threats of job losses and
redundancies where they are used by a person to manipulate another person and not as part of
the fair and open management of an organisation.

Workers should understand that harassment and similar behaviour such as workplace bullying
may be the subject of action under occupational safety and health laws if it causes harm or
increases the risk of harm to other workers.

Employers should also ensure that workers are not subjected to workplace harassment,
bullying, initiation ceremonies or practical jokes that may result in injury or harm. These
                                             - 19 -

forms of workplace violence can have serious consequences, and their prevention is part of
the employer’s duty to provide a safe working environment, as well as employees’ duty to
avoid harming each other.

The hazard identification, risk assessment and risk control processes described in Part 2 of
this Guidance Material should eliminate these acts of violence from workplaces.

Internal procedures for dealing with workers’ complaints about workplace bullying should be
agreed, following consultation with workers. All workers should know what to do and who to
contact if they believe there is a serious problem that may result in workplace violence. They
should be made aware of procedures for reporting these situations and resolving safety issues
in each workplace.

General duties to protect visitors

There is a general duty for employers and self-employed people to make sure that people who
are not employees are not harmed in any way by work activity.

This includes visitors who may be in workplaces for any reason, at any time, and any violent
incident affecting them during their visit. It also includes people near the workplace.

In some occupations, such as nursing and teaching, there are additional legal requirements
relating to the duty of care to people other than employees.
                                               - 20 -

                                                                                     Appendix 1

Use this checklist as a guide to assist in identifying potentially violent situations and to review
and improve safety procedures. Tick the appropriate response.
A response in a shaded box indicates that the issue should be assessed and controlled.

PART A: Hazard identification checklist
1. The Work Environment
Are money/valuables/drugs kept at the workplace?                              Yes             No
Does the workplace provide a customer or client service?                      Yes             No
Do staff work alone or at night?                                              Yes             No
Are violent incidents fairly common in your industry or area?                 Yes             No
Is it easy to enter the workplace unnoticed?                                  Yes             No
Does the workplace have:
   •   Low lighting or dark areas?                                            Yes             No
   •   Irritating or high noise levels?                                       Yes             No
   •   Inadequate space for staff and clients/customers?                      Yes             No
   •   Inadequate barriers between staff and clients?                         Yes             No
   •   Furnishings or equipment that could be used as weapons?                Yes             No

2. Clients/customers
Are customers or clients likely to become angry or disgruntled?               Yes             No
Are clients likely to be affected by drugs or alcohol?                        Yes             No
Are clients/patients likely to suffer from mental illness?                    Yes             No
Do inexperienced workers deal with potentially difficult clients?             Yes             No
Are procedures available for referring clients to other services for          Yes             No
psychiatric, drug, alcohol and behavioural reasons?
Are clients made aware of what is expected of them                            Yes             No
regarding their conduct at the workplace?

3. Workers
Are staff relationships frequently tense?                                     Yes             No
Are certain workers likely to become violent?                                 Yes             No
Are certain workers likely to use abusive language?                           Yes             No
Are workers stressed, unhappy or bored at work?                               Yes             No
Are personal difficulties becoming a problem at work?                         Yes             No
                                              - 21 -

Is prejudice or intolerance displayed at the workplace?                Yes           No
Are initiation ceremonies or bullying accepted practice                Yes           No
amongst workers?

4. Training
Have workers who may be exposed to workplace violence received the following training:
       •   Legal responsibilities?                                     Yes           No
       •   How to recognise potentially violent behaviour?             Yes           No
       •   Causes and types of violence?                               Yes           No
       •   Client Service skills?                                      Yes           No
       •   Negotiation skills?                                         Yes           No
       •   Communication skills?                                       Yes           No
       •   Security procedures?                                        Yes           No
       •   Basic self-defence?                                         Yes           No
       •   Incident reporting and recording?                           Yes           No
       •   Emergency and response procedures?                          Yes           No
       •   Worker assistance programs?                                 Yes           No
5. Procedures
Is there an agreed response plan for violent situations?               Yes           No
Are there written procedures for the following:
   •   Cash handling?                                                  Yes           No
   •   Securing the premises?                                          Yes           No
   •   Safe storage of personal property?                              Yes           No
   •   Handling disputes involving clients?                            Yes           No
   •   Responding to alarms?                                           Yes           No
   •   Reporting violent incidents?                                    Yes           No

6. Communication
Can workers communicate effectively with clients/customers             Yes           No
to diffuse potentially violent situations?
Are field workers or persons working alone able to call                Yes           No
for help quickly in an emergency?
Are mobile phones, intercoms, duress alarms and beepers                Yes           No
available and in good working order?
Are emergency telephone numbers prominently displayed                  Yes           No
                                             - 22 -

or on automatic dial?

7. Security
Does the premises have:
       •   Duress alarms at counter areas and in interview rooms?           Yes        No
       •   Monitoring and surveillance systems?                             Yes        No
       •   Fire alarms and sprinkler systems?                               Yes        No
       •   Firefighting equipment meeting current regulations?              Yes        No
       •   Security screens and doors?                                      Yes        No
       •   Master key locking systems?                                      Yes        No
       •   Outdoor security lights triggered to operate after dark?         Yes        No
       •   Hidden safes?                                                    Yes        No
       •   Interview Rooms with two exits?                                  Yes        No
       •   Staff only exits from office areas?                              Yes        No
       •   Parking facilities which are close by, well lit and        Yes         No
           with minimal shrubbery?
PART B: Post Incident Checklist
Did the procedure for reporting the violent incident include a description of:
       •   The type of incident (e.g. verbal, physical, sexual,             Yes        No
           armed hold-up, bomb or death threat)
       •   Nature and extent of injuries, if any?                           Yes        No
       •   Time and location, including whether it was on call-out?         Yes        No
       •   Who was involved (e.g. client and staff member)                  Yes        No
Was the immediate response procedure correctly followed?                    Yes        No
Were police/other emergency services promptly called?                       Yes        No
Was first aid immediately available if required?                            Yes        No
Was the incident discussed with employees afterwards?                       Yes   `    No
Was a worker assistance/counselling service provided if needed?             Yes        No
Were workers able to return to normal duties soon after the incident?       Yes        No
Was there a review to see if procedures could be improved?                  Yes        No
                                                                                                                                                            Appendix 2
                                                                       RISK ASSESSMENT: Example 1

Company Name: The Blue Hills Nursing Home

Information collected by: Mary Jones, Supervisor

Date: 4 May 1999

Task and                        Hazards                           People                            How Often                                 Comments
Location                                                         Affected
Showering          Residents may become agitated        Nurses and other staff        Daily, especially in the morning   Not enough time for showering each resident can
resident in the    and abusive. Staff may become        and/or residents can suffer                                      increase the pressure in this situation
bathrooms          impatient with unco-operative        verbal and physical abuse
Introducing new    Residents may not like to be         New nurses and other staff    Daily, especially in the morning
staff              undressed in front of staff with
                   whom they are not familiar
Visitors meeting   Aggressive and anti-social           Visitors may be frightened    During visiting hours
residents in       behaviour from some residents
lounge rooms
Keeping            Residents may accuse each other      Residents and staff who       At any time
personal           of removing personal belongings      may become involved in
belongings                                              arguments
secure in
Planning daily     Some residents who are attached      Staff who are seen to be      From time to time                  Procedure to advise long-term residents of changes,
schedules in all   to certain staff may be very upset   responsible for the change                                       before they occur, should help
areas              by a change
Dispensing         Residents may not want to take       Visitors, other residents,    Daily
medication         their medication. Their              staff, especially if it is
                   behaviour may change when            unusual for the person to
                   medication is changed.               be aggressive

      This form covers all workers, residents and visitors who may be affected by work in the nursing home.
                                                                             - 24 -

                                                           RISK ASSESSMENT: Example 2
Company Name: The Green Family 24 Hour Supermarket

Information collected by: Susan Green – Supermarket Manager

Date: 2 April 1999

Task and location                  Hazards                        People Affected                         How Often                      Comments

Handling dissatisfied    Verbal abuse and physical     Counter staff and customers who may   From time-to-time
customers at front       violence from customers       be nearby
Handling drunken         Verbal abuse and physical     As above                              Sometimes around pub closing time
customers from pub       violence from customers
next door
Maintaining rosters      Customer service too slow,    Counter staff and customers waiting   Peak times                          Need to move staff to the
and managing             resulting in unreasonable     for service                                                               front counter when a
customer service staff   pressure on staff and                                                                                   worker is off sick
                         irritated customers
One person rostered at   Robbery                       Night shift workers                   After dark                          Need to look at this
Handling cash at         Robbery                       All workers and customers who may     All times                           Check cash handling and
counter                                                be there at the time                                                      alert procedures
Handling cash in the     Robbery                       As above                              Especially in quiet times           Need to review procedures
Unloading new stock in   Robbery of valuable goods,    Workers in truck bay and truck        Stock delivery times                New emergency button has
truck bay                such as cigarettes            drivers                                                                   been installed
Shoplifting              Physical violence if          Worker who apprehends offender        At irregular times
                         offenders are caught in the

This form covers all workers and customers who may be affected by work in the supermarket
Code of Practice: Workplace Violence, 1999, WorkSafe Western Australia.

Preventing violence in the accommodation services of the social and community services
industry, April 1996, WorkCover Authority of NSW.

Code of Practice for the Prevention of Occupational Violence, 1994, South Australian
Occupational Health and Safety Commission.

Personal Security in the Retail Industry – Managing the risk of cash-related assault,
November 1997, Division of Workplace Health and Safety, Queensland Department of
Employment, Training and Industrial Relations.

Violence at Work, April 1999, Division of Workplace Health and Safety, Queensland
Department of Employment, Training and Industrial Relations.

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Description: Guide to Management of WORKPLACE VIOLENCE