Learning from incidents of workplace violence

“The important thing is that we learn the lessons from what has happened”, a common phrase following an incident, but how often do we really learn lessons and fully implement that learning to shape future policy and procedures?

It is good Health and Safety practice to investigate incidents at work (HSE HSG65) and situations involving conflict, verbal abuse of staff or physical assault from service users or members of the public should be treated as seriously as accidents involving machinery or resulting in physical injury.

As well as encouraging incident reporting to record activity, monitor trends and highlight problem areas, organisations can benefit from accurate investigations through using the learning to:

  • Shape policy or change procedures
  • Improve current practice
  • Support individuals
  • Breed a culture of incident reporting leading to positive action

Tips for writing workplace violence incident investigation reports

Initial investigations will often fall to a line manager or supervisor who may have limited experience of investigating incidents or writing reports. A level of skill is required to write a good incident investigation report as there may be a natural tendency to shed a better light on things, speculate, or inflect ones own opinion. In addition, if the incident was a result of physical assault or verbal abuse, the report author may need to interview staff members who are under emotional stress or feeling vulnerable, so being able to extract the facts in a sympathetic manner is vital.

The following guidelines are useful to help avoid these pitfalls and ensure the report content is an accurate reflection of events and a valuable learning tool for the future.

  • The depth of detail should be proportional to the seriousness or potential seriousness of the incident
  • Make a clear distinction between evidence, assumption and opinion
  • Clearly record the facts and try to avoid including personal opinion
  • Don’t speculate
  • Don’t plug any gaps with assumptions
  • Details relating to competence, awareness and training are important and should be recorded
  • Challenge any inconsistencies or discrepancies in statements or witness interviews
  • Look at the immediate root cause of the incident
  • Use expert input if needed
  • Conclusions should be based on probability, demonstrated by evidence
  • Conclusions should be under a separate section of the report so they are not confused with facts and evidence
  • Don’t use the investigation as a means to address issues outside of the root cause or scope of the report
  • The report may have to be disclosed to a third party claimant under litigation – bear this in mind when using descriptive language or generalised views and take care not to use inflammatory or sweeping statements
  • Any recommendations should be practicable and directly related to the root causes of the incident

For more adivce and support with workplace violence contact Maybo.

Posted by Maybo on May 3, 2012



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