Violence at Work – HSE’s Role

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) is responsible for the regulation of almost all the risks to health and safety arising from work activity in Britain, including work-related violence (WRV). Northern Ireland has its own health and safety bodies analogous to the HSE.

To help employers to manage the risks of WRV the HSE has published free general guidance (INDG69 rev).

In November 2009, HSE supported the publication of free guidance on ‘Preventing Workplace Harassment and Violence‘ developed jointly by the CBI, the Partnership of Public Employers and the TUC.

HSE has published sector specific guidance on WRV for health and social care; education sector; retail sector; banks & building societies.

HSE also provides information on how to reduce the threat of violence to lone and mobile workers.

The Problem

Enforcement of the Health and Safety legislation in relation to Work-Related Violence has been to all intents and purposes negligible.

The fact is that the HSE has for some time been under resourced to be able to effectively police the way employers protect against workplace related violence. (Any doubt about this will be quickly be dispelled by reading the articles published on the TUC “HAZARDS” web site.

In effect, HSE are depending on employers to do the ‘right thing’ and on employees to sue for damages/compensation in the civil courts if they suffer ‘injury’.

The unfortunate consequence is that hundreds of thousands of employees are being sold well short of their statutory right to a safe system of working and the public are unlawfully being put at risk of violence in our hospitals; mental health settings, residential homes, night clubs, transport systems, holels, bars, nightclubs, shops and shopping centres, schools, colleges and universites, prisons and youth offender institutions, probation service, clergy, et alia.

As a result, until employers and their insurers come to recognise the need to prioritise safety against violence (in all its forms), the situation is likely to continue.