Managing Workplace Violence – Getting to the Root of the Problem

Security management specialist Des Green, looks at one of the key principles for managing workplace violence risks – identifying the real root cause of the problem. 

‘All too often clients ask me to write them a personal safety or security policy to satisfy a statutory requirement, without undertaking any evaluative risk assessments to identify what the problems are. In my view we need to look beyond the number of recorded incidents and physical assaults and spend more effort in investigating the characteristics and causes. It makes sense to investigate the actual causes of the incident rather than just meeting the statutory requirement to report, as without investigation there can be no learning and without learning it is unlikely there will be positive change. 

Categorising incidents by type and severity will help to identify trends and priorities. The severity of the incidents could be quantified by the employer’s responsibility to report all over-seven-day injury staff absences to the HSE. The period was increased from the previous three days with effect from 6th April 2012. (Now you only have to report injuries that lead to an employee or self-employed person being away from work, or unable to perform their normal work duties, for more than seven consecutive days as the result of an occupational accident or injury. Employers must still keep a record of the accident if the worker has been incapacitated for more than three consecutive days.) Interestingly, I have also known situations where the assault experienced by the member of staff was not physical and therefore would not need to be reported under the HSE rules, but resulted in the member of staff suffering a psychological injury and being absent from work for six months.

It would also be important to investigate the situation in which the incidents occurred and more importantly what the member of staff was doing at the time. It is crucial to investigate the potential motivation for the assaults to determine how appropriate control measures might be developed and delivered via training. There might be a particular requirement to train staff in the environment in which they deliver their service, be it customer service or care or perhaps to practice scenarios with other staff or even the police who would be expected to assist them in an emergency situation. Experience has shown that in high-risk situations incidents reach a speedier conclusion and staff are far more confident when they know exactly what they need to do.

More often than not incidents or types of incidents follow patterns.  Remember there’s a big risk in benchmarking incidents and especially making sector specific comparisons when the extent/seriousness of the assaults are not clear. The assault doesn’t necessarily have to be physical to have a serious effect on the staff involved.

It’s also important to consider the implications of local crime trends, particularly for lone workers or in ‘open campus’ sites. Complete a post code search  to establish what the prevailing crime issues are where you work. Analyse the times of the recorded incidents and the days of the week, patterns are sure to emerge, which conceivably could be countered by providing dedicated security cover.

The trick is not to rush into implementing control measures but to take the time to fully investigate recorded incidents and to spend time in considering the detail. Be prepared to take time to listen to staff accounts of their experiences, because unfortunately all too often they do not formally report and to a large extent see the violence as ‘part of the job’.   Adopt a ‘fly-on-the –wall’ approach and having identified high-risk periods or activities observe and look for causes.’

Contact us for a copy  of our Violence Risk Assessment questionnnaire and our WRV Checklist to help you identify and prioratise area of risk.

Background on the author:

Des Green runs his own consultancy to provide security management expertise to corporate organisations, largely within the NHS. His background includes 14 years' service with the Royal Military Police and 5 years as Head of Security at the United Bristol Healthcare NHS Trust. He has a BSc in Risk and Security Management and is a Member (Diplomate) of the Security Institute.

Posted by Maybo on May 8, 2017


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