Who is at risk of violence at work?

Everybody who works with members of the public is at risk of violence, but there is strong evidence (Standing & Nicolini, 1997*) which shows that the highest risks of violence at work are associated with:

  • Dealing with the public
  • Providing care or advice
  • Working with confused older people
  • Working with those who have mental health problems
  • Alcohol or drug misuse
  • Working alone
  • Handling valuables or medication
  • Working with people who are under stress

* Standing H & Nicolini D (1997) Review of Workplace Related Violence, Tavistock Institute. HSE Books.

Who is most at risk?

Employees most at risk are likely to be those who:

  • Aren’t aware they are at risk and unprepared
  • Haven’t been trained in inter personal skills/personal safety
  • Are so overburdened with work that they can’t always give clients their full attention
  • Have been victimised/assaulted before
  • Work with others who have been assaulted previously at work
  • Believe they have no option but to tolerate unsafe working conditions and don’t know their Rights
  • Know they are at risk and understand – but are unwilling to assert their Employment Rights

And, particularly, if they are working for an employer that:

  • Isn’t committed to reducing the potential for violence to happen
  • Hasn’t assigned a senior manager to be responsible/accountable for ensuring adequate standards of protection against violence
  • Doesn’t welcome reports of safety concerns
  • Doesn’t invite, investigate and address reports of abuse, threats, assaults
  • Doesn’t listen to the views of ‘front line’ employees
  • Defers making improvements that are needed
  • Hasn’t made suitable provisions

Who is most at risk of serious assault?

The ‘real time’ that separates employees from the manpower support of colleagues/ security is crucial to preventing very serious injury outcomes. Home Office research shows that the close presence of other workers tends to inhibit assaults taking place and the Review of Workplace Related Violence 1997 (Standing, H. and Nicolini, D. – HSE Books) presents powerful evidence to show that working alone or in isolation means a higher risk of sustaining serious injury in the event of an attack.

It’s common sense really. If no-one can promptly help to stave off an attack then the severity of the consequences are potentially more serious.

Whilst being able to talk to a colleague on a radio or telephone may be comforting in a non emergency situation, in a crisis it may not be sufficient to ensure safety.

The increasing frequency of serious attacks on lone worker employees means that some jobs previously considered suitable to be carried out single-handed may now need to have one, two or even more colleagues either present or, very nearby in order to be considered legally safe to carry out.

Easy Targets

Lone workers in small shops, petrol stations, Off Licences and kiosks are seen as easy targets. Cleaners, maintenance or repair staff and others who work alone outside normal hours are also at special risk of suffering physical and sexual attacks. However, of all lone workers, taxi drivers are at the greatest risk of violence.

 

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