The location of a workplace can mean a higher risk of violence happening

Where your workplace is situated can increase the likelihood of violence occurring. For example, it may be situated in a ‘hard to get to’ place where parking arrangements are restricted, where public transport is a long way off, the journey there is all uphill and visitors are already agitated, hot and bothered (and late) when they arrive!

The risk of attacks can also be higher because of the kind of people who live in or frequent the area – and particularly if the pedestrian route to the car park / Public Transport facilities is conducive to muggings.

Building design can increase AND decrease likelihood of violence

The building you’re working in may not have been constructed with the potential for today’s violence in mind! This may mean that there are areas which may easily conceal (or even attract) undesirables and increase the potential for (and fear of) violent confrontations.

Your local Crime Prevention Officer (CPO) will be able to advise you on how to reduce the risk of violence with advice on lighting, CCTV, security patrolling and other means.

If you intend to build new premises, move into new premises or refurbish existing buildings it would be well worthwhile contacting your local Architectural Liaison Officer (ALO). ALOs are CPOs who have been specially trained in designing out crime at the drawing board stage.


Check out Secured by Design

It’s the UK Police flagship initiative supporting the principles of designing out crime.


Internal features also affect the likelihood of violence

The internal layout, decor, furniture, temperature, lighting, noise levels and equipment in a workplace have a significant influence on the likelihood of violence happening. People are less likely to behave violently if the atmosphere in a workplace is welcoming, orderly and supports a feeling of well being, safety and security – and anything which helps achieve this will be helping to reduce the risks of violence.

Risk Reduction

If you are looking to people to be on their best behaviour the best way to get it is by ensuring they are treated respectfully and by preventing frustrations, annoyances and boredom getting the better of them.


The questions below have been set with a public service “Appointments/ Reception Area” specifically in mind, but will give an idea of the kind of risk reduction measures that can help.

Is the general ambiance welcoming?

Is access/departure controlled?

Are directions to the Reception Desk clearly sign posted?

Are contingency arrangements in place to assist disabled people and those accompanying them?

Is the reception desk easily identifiable and accessible to all?

Is the area always kept clean and tidy?

Is the area draughty and cold in winter?

Is the area hot and stuffy?

Is the area decorated in soft (calming) pastel colours?

Is the décor in good condition?

Is the area noisy? (Common sources of waiting room irritation include banging doors, telephones ringing, loud TVs and radios and Tannoy and PA systems.)

Is calming music played softly in the waiting area?

Is the seating in the waiting/reception area comfortable?

Are there always enough seats for people waiting?

Is there room next to some seats for a wheelchair – without blocking the aisle?

Are magazines/papers in the waiting room ; are they tidy; are they recent publications?

Is a Childrens’ Area provided?

Are only soft, noiseless toys kept there?

Are visitors able to purchase refreshments nearby?

Are toilet facilities available?

If there are no toilets for public use, are there clear directions signposted to the nearest facilities?

Is there a pay phone available for public use?

Is the waiting area a public thoroughfare or, (considerately) separated away from ‘through-traffic’?

Do clients receive regular “info updates” on delays in appointment waiting times

Are ‘Behaviour Rules and Expectations’ prominently posted?

Are the ‘Behaviour Rules and Expectations’ written in simple to understand terms?

Do the ‘Behaviour Rules and Expectations’ notices make it clear they apply to ALL staff (incluing management, contractors and agency staff) as well as ALL service users and other visitors?

Is ‘the way to make a complaint’ prominently displayed? (This helps front line staff avoid having to answer complaints about issues beyond their immediate control e.g. staffing levels, organisational procedures, etc.)

Do the ‘Behaviour Rules and Expectations’ state what action staff will take in the event of undesirable, anti-social, violent, aggressive or abusive behaviour?

Do the ‘Behaviour Rules and Expectations’ notices explain what action the organisation will take against people who break the rules?

Are reception staff shielded protected from potentially aggressive clients by high enough and deep enough counters. (Take care to ensure counters are not too high for wheelchair bound visitors.)

Is there anything in the area that could be thrown / used as a weapon e.g. Fire Extinguishers, Bins, Water butts, Umbrella Stands, Trolleys, Tables, Chairs, Books, Cans of cold drink, Cups of Hot drinks, etc. (Fixed items are less easy to use as weapons.)

Do all staff know when and how to summon assistance to a deteriorating situation – and when to leave?

Is there easy access to a panic alarm which can be activated by staff without arousing the suspicion of an aggressor?

Who would come in response to a call for assistance (e.g. a panic alarm) and how long would they take to arrive?

Would they always be able to contain the danger? (i.e. Sufficient numbers to deal with forseeable circumstances.)

Are staff clear about how to call for the police?

Is a the Reception Desk telephone set with a ‘one button’ dial up for 999 emergencies?

How long would it take (at worst) for Police assistance to arrive?

Is there an escape route or safe place staff that can retreat to meanwhile?

Is there a ‘Place of Safety’ where people who are distressed, over anxious, angry, violent or seriously disturbed can be ‘housed’ until they regain self control?

Is the area covered by CCTV?

Is what happens always video recorded?

Is what happens being continuously monitored?

Interview room design

Interview rooms are a ‘hot spot’ for trouble and tolerating a bad design will be paving the way for violent incidents to happen.

1. All Interview rooms need to have clear unbreakable glass or plastic panels (in the wall or door) so that colleagues can see inside if there are concerns. (Any ‘privacy screening’ should be capable of being removed from the outside!)

2. Ideally there should be two doors. Both should be free of obstructions on both sides (to allow ease of access) and, preferably, should be able to be opened in both directions (to enable help to come in quickly and to prevent barricading).

3. An Interview room also needs to afford some level of privacy from external noises and interruptions. (But, not so soundproof that sounds of raised voices cannot be heard outside the room!)

3. Interview rooms need to be big enough to avoid users suffering a feeling of enclosure (claustrophobia) and oppression / depression

4. Interview rooms should have predominantly natural lighting. (Fluorescent strip lighting can be very oppressive after a while)

5. Interview rooms need to be kept at a comfortable temperature, well ventilated and draught free.

6. The decor should be in good condition (Colours should be soft pastel shades) and non distracting.

7. Ideally the flooring should be carpet – to provide a ‘homely’ feel and to avoid echo in the room.

8. Room furniture needs to be kept simple, plain, functional and, depending on the level of risk, fixed securely in position.

9. Seats need to be comfortable – especially if the Interview is likely to take a while.

10. The seats should be the same – to avoid giving the impression of inequality.

11. Ideally both the interviewer and the interviewee should be seated equi-distant from the exit(s). This gives both parties ready access to get away – i.e. an escape route.)

12. A wide and deep desk (at least 6 feet 6 inches x 4 feet) should separate the interviewer and interviewee. (This helps to prevent them intruding into the other’s personal space and, by providing a physical barrier that the other person needs to surmount before getting to them, it also offers Interviewers protection against assault.

13. A (concealed from view) panic alarm should be installed in close proximity to the interviewer who should be aware of it’s location and how it functions.

Safe Practice Protocols for Interview Rooms

Safe Practice Protocols need to be established for Interview Room use. These include provision for regular, unobtusive external observation of Interviews in progress to take place and all staff need to know how to respond to panic alarm calls!