Created on: 14 Jul 2023
The risk of a violent attack at work is a serious occupational hazard. The EIS does not accept that a risk of a violent attack at work is something which is part of the job.
Defining what is meant by a violent incident is difficult. Clearly it must include incidents which cause death or physical injury but threats, especially with a weapon or an implement, are also important even if no injury occurs.
Constant verbal abuse can cause health damage by being a source of stress. Sometimes violence is not limited to the workplace but follows workers to their homes or takes the form of attacks on their property such as the car they use to undertake their job.
The HSE defines violent incidents as those:
Sexual and racial harassment should also often be dealt with as violence at work. People are often reluctant to report incidents for a number of reasons.
Some fear it could be seen as their own failure - their mishandling of a situation and their professional incompetence. Some do not want the attention that a report would bring and, given the absence of counselling and support for victims, see no point in reporting it. Members must be encouraged to report all violent incidents otherwise the scale of the problem remains hidden.
There is no specific mention of violence in HASAWA, but all the general duties placed on employers by the Act still apply to the control of this risk.
Under the Act employers must provide:
And the Management Regs state that employers must provide a ‘suitable and sufficient’ assessment of any risks to the health and safety of their employees.
RIDDOR 1995 requires employers to report to the HSE physical injury due to an assault arising out of or in connection with work. The new requirement only applies acts of violence which result in physical injury. Further details on reporting and recording acts of violence which result in physical injury can be found on page 201 below.
Risk assessments should cover violence at work as some employers do not recognise that personal attacks on staff are risks and fail to include this in the process of risk assessment. The HSE has issued a number of enforcement notices on public sector employers requiring them to carry out risk assessments and to reduce the risk of violence.
Some violent incidents cannot be predicted but many are foreseeable and therefore employers have a responsibility to identify these and seek to prevent them.
Where a real risk of violence exists, employers must, to meet their legal responsibilities:
Where violence is a problem, employers should make a commitment to prevent foreseeable incidents of violence and this commitment, which must come from the highest level in management, must be translated into practical arrangements.
All workers at risk must have confidence that their employer not only deplores acts of violence towards them but has developed a strategy with which to prevent, control or minimise the risks involved.
The effectiveness of any measure can only be assessed by its relevance to any one situation where violence is a possible outcome. The question of violence must be taken into account when decisions are being made about such issues as:
Employers should develop practical policies which include:
Some employers have produced policies on the prevention of violence but many of these are merely procedures informing their workers what to do after violence has happened.
Others have produced policies which include detailed arrangements on how they are going to protect their staff from the risk of foreseeable violence.
Compensation can be obtained through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. No legal advice or representation is necessary but if legal or other advice is sought the CICA will not pay the costs of the services.
However, the EIS provides full legal support for members throughout the CICA application process. For an application to be considered, a person must have been:
An incident should be reported to the police as soon as possible after the event. It is important that a teacher or lecturer who has been the victim of an assault reports this to the police if this has not been done by the employer. To gain compensation from CICA the assault must be reported to the police.
Safety Reps should: