Violence and Aggression at Work
Definition of violence at work
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines work-related violence as:
‘Any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work.’
It is important to remember that this can include:
- verbal abuse or threats, including face to face, online and via telephone
- physical attacks
This might include violence from members of the public, customers, clients, patients, service users and students towards a person at work.
For violence to be work-related, it must be in connection with the work activity. For example, the following situations would not be included in this definition:
- personal disputes between workers and other people, such as family members
- violence between people not at work, such as customers or service users
Impact of violence
Work-related violence can have an impact on all workers including those who may witness an incident. It can cause:
- stress and mental health conditions
- disability or death
There can be physical harm, but serious or persistent verbal abuse or threats can also have a serious effect on a worker’s mental health.
For employers, violence can lead to increased staff sickness, poor morale, and a damaged reputation, making it difficult to recruit and keep staff. It can also mean extra cost, with higher insurance premiums and compensation payments.
What the law says
Health and safety law applies to risks from work-related violence, just as it does to other risks from work. The main pieces of relevant legislation are provided below.
Health and Safety at Work Act
This Act places a legal duty on employers to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety, and welfare of workers. This includes protecting them from work-related violence.
Every business must have a policy for managing health and safety.
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations
These Regulations require employers to assess the health and safety risks to workers, including the risk of work-related violence.
In addition, employers have a requirement to:
- appoint competent people
- set up emergency procedures
- provide information and training to workers
- work together with employers sharing the same workplace
Workers, on the other hand, are required to use the information and training they have received, and to report dangerous situations or failings in health and safety arrangements.
Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR)
Under these Regulations, employers, certain self-employed people and those in control of work premises must report certain workplace injuries, dangerous occurrences and occupational diseases to HSE.
Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations
These Regulations apply in workplaces where workers are not covered by representatives appointed by recognised trade unions.
Legal advice from other sources
HSE is not the primary authority for cases of bullying, harassment or domestic abuse in the workplace. However, there are other sources of advice: