Workplace violence

Workplace violence

essay=December 2007
citations missing=October 2007
wikify=October 2007

Workplace violence refers to violence that originates from employees or employers and threatens employers and/or other employees.

The definition of work related violence that has received pan-European acceptance is as follows: “incidents where people are abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work, involving an explicit or implicit challenge to their safety, well-being or health”. This can involve violence resulting from industrial disputes, although this is not a major factor in most incidents.

This establishes violence as a behaviour with the potential to cause harm. Broadly speaking there are three forms:
* Non-physical violence (intimidation, abuse, threats etc)
* Physical violence (punching, kicking, pushing etc)
* Aggravated physical violence (Use of weapons, e.g. guns, knives, syringes, pieces of furniture, bottles, glasses, etc)

Violence in all its forms is a concern for staff and management alike. For employers, violence can lead to poor morale and a poor image for the organisation, making it difficult to recruit and keep staff. It can also mean extra costs, such as those associated with absenteeism, higher insurance premiums and legal fees, fines and compensation payments where negligence is proven.

For employees, violence can cause pain, distress and even disability or death. Physical attacks are obviously dangerous but serious or persistent verbal abuse or threats can also damage employees’ health through anxiety or stress. Peter Vajda identifies workplace gossip as a form of workplace violence, noting that it is "essentially a form of attack."

Why do people actually resort to violence?

Violence is an example of what is termed ‘functional’ behaviour. That which can be used by an individual to get what they want, or to provide them with some tangible benefit. They may want faster or better service, they may desire attention or alternatively to be left alone or scare people off. They may wish to acquire cash, drugs or other goods that don’t belong to them. They may crave the excitement or notoriety, or it may be the only way they can express themselves or influence others.

By understanding the cause of the violence we will be better able to eliminate, reduce or manage the risk of it occurring. There are four main types of work related violence.

TYPE 1. Criminal violence: Violence perpetrated by individuals who have no relationship with the organisation or victim. Normally their aim is to access cash, stock, drugs, or perform some other criminal or unlawful act.

TYPE 2. Service user violence: Violence perpetrated by individuals who are recipients of a service provided in the workplace or by the victim. This often arises through frustration with service delivery or some other by-product of the organisations core business activities.

TYPE 3. Worker–on-worker violence: Violence perpetrated by individuals working within the organisation; colleagues, supervisors, managers etc. This is often linked to protests against enforced redundancies, grudges against specific members of staff, or in response to disciplinary action that the individual perceives as being unjust.

TYPE 4. Domestic violence: Violence perpetrated by individuals, outside of the organisation, but who have a relationship with an employee e.g. partner, spouses or acquaintances. This is often perpetrated within the work setting, simply because the offender knows where a given individual is during the course of a working day.

Why should I undertake Risk Assessments?

In the UK there is a legal obligation to complete risk assessments. Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states that, “every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of:
* The risks to the health and safety of his (or her) employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work; and
* The risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct of him or his undertaking”.

Regulation 4 then obliges the employer to apply a hierarchy of risk controls.

In other countries occupational health laws are also in place and commonly compel employers to take a similar approach to providing a safe and healthy place of work.

In addition to completing assessments in order to satisfy your legal requirements, you may want to consider their practical value:
* They can be instrumental in reducing the number of ‘safety critical’ incidents that occur
* They underpin a process that creates a safe, secure and welcoming environment, which is likely to enhance corporate image as well as customer confidence and loyalty
* They ensure time and resources, including expenditure, are targeted efficiently and effectively

What exactly is a Risk Assessment?

Risk Assessment can be described as the ‘systematic examination of work activities to determine if there are any ‘hazards’ that are likely to expose workers to the threat of harm or injury’.

A ‘hazard’ can be described as anything with the potential to cause harm; including people, objects and situations.

Any Risk Assessment must identify:
* The nature of the hazard and potential for harm
* The factors that increase the likelihood of staff exposure to the hazard
* The measures necessary to eliminate, reduce or manage the risk of exposure to the named hazard

High-Risk Workplaces

The following elements are commonly found in workplaces with the highest recorded incidence of workplace violence:

* Sexual harassment
* Verbal abuse
* Minimum-wage payrolls
* Discrimination
* Workplace bullying
* Poor or dangerous working conditions
* Lack of job security.
* Physical attacks (i.e. hitting, shoving)
* Threatening behaviour (shaking fists, destroying property or throwing things)

Occupational Groups at Higher Risk From Workplace Violence

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety lists the following higher risk occupations Citation
title = Violence in the Workplace
url =
accessdate = May 8,2008
* health care employees
* correctional officers
* social services employees
* teachers
* municipal housing inspectors
* public works employees
* retail employees

ee also

*Industrial espionage
*Workplace conflict

External links

* [ Workplace Violence News & Resources]
*PDFlink| [ Federal Bureau of Investigation] |6.08 MiB
* [ Half of Large Employers Had Workplace Violence Incident in Last Year]
* [ Workplace Violence Q&A - CCOHS]

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