Are Your Colleagues Struggling to Assess Violence Risks?

Violence can be an unpredictable risk as its causes are complex and it is influenced by many variables. This dynamic nature was the basis of our pioneering work to apply dynamic risk assessment to violence risks, a contribution acknowledged in the Routledge practical guide to Dynamic Risk Assessment (DRA).

It is clearly important to develop staff skills in situation assessment, but this should not replace the rigours of predictive, planned risk assessment, or we risk simply reacting to emergencies. This is why Maybo training helps employees predict and plan to reduce risks and develop their ability to apply a dynamic risk assessment in an unfolding situation and make sensible decisions based on this.

Here we share some tips on how to approach assessment of violence risks, which even experienced practitioners can find tricky to assess. We would love to hear your thoughts on approaches that have worked for you, and if you would like to chat to one of our specialists or discuss the option of an in-house workshop for colleagues, please get in touch

‘Begin with the end in mind

We have seen a range of approaches to assessing violence risks over the past 20 years, each with their merits. We have learnt not to be too prescriptive in approach, as environments and contexts vary greatly. It is important however to be clear about the desired outcomes of the exercise i.e. what you need this process to deliver for your organisation.

Some risk assessments are little more than tick box approaches that show an assessment exists; yet offer little insight into the risks faced, their root causes and how these can be addressed. Poor understanding leads to ineffective strategies and controls and poorly targeted resources. It also makes it impossible to set realistic outcomes/goals and to evaluate the impact of your strategies and controls.

A fit for purpose and meaningful assessment of risks and needs is time well spent and will prove cost effective. Here are some of the ingredients of such an assessment:

Focus on a specific service area or job role

If you are finding using a generic risk assessment tool for violence a bit like trying to fit a square peg in round hole, try a different approach such as focusing on a specific job role where you know staff experience conflict. Consider the tasks and activities performed and risks / vulnerability inherent in these, also influences such as the environment, nature of work and service user considerations. Some activities/events may need a specific risk assessment.

Remember you only need to focus on areas where there are ‘significant risks’ and can apply your energy and limited resources on these.

Explore conflict and risk scenarios with staff and stakeholders

Getting out and walking and talking through conflict and risk scenarios with staff doing the job and people using your services will help you assess adequacy of policy, guidance and controls and clarify role expectations. The real world scenarios identified will also be invaluable vehicles for learning in any practical training that follows.

Look behind the behaviour

Conversations on the ground will allow you to explore some of the causes of conflict and consider how these can be addressed and exposure to risk reduced. To help identify the root cause of a problem/conflict flashpoint - try asking staff ‘why’ four or five times! People behave the way they do for a reason and if we can identify what this is we can address it. This is especially relevant in settings where staff have an ongoing relationship with service users and are able to complete person centred assessments and plans that examine the behaviours and vulnerability associated with these.

Data, data, data!

Whilst assaults tend to be reported, incidents of verbal abuse are generally under reported. It can also be hard to get quality information from generic report forms that do exist. A focused staff consultation/survey will provide a fuller picture of the nature and extent of the risks and lots of valuable information from people who do the job as to how these can be reduced. The process may highlight differences in understanding and expectations and potential gaps in policy and guidance. It will also help identify good practices that can be shared.

Review of incident data and staff survey findings will establish an accurate understanding of the current risks and a ‘baseline’ that progress can be measured against. This is critical for any intended evaluation. Maybo has an excellent staff survey tool that we tailor for each client to help them gather valuable risk data in this subject area. This includes analysis and recommendations and training needs assessment for each role surveyed.

Control measures and training needs

Violence is a complex risk area but following the steps outlined above will make it a lot easier to assess and will inform the range of strategies that may be needed/enhanced to improve safety. Job or service modifications may address some of the risks and the process will deliver the information needed for a evidence based Training Needs Analysis (TNA) and fit for purpose training.

Help at Hand

In future articles we will be looking at multi element strategies that deliver sustainable results in reducing conflict, violence and restrictive practices. We will also outline a simple yet robust approach to undertaking a TNA.

If you would like information on these aspects of violence risk management, a workshop or help with a bespoke staff survey or TNA, please get in touch.

Linked articles: 

New sentencing Guidelines: The latest Sentencing Guidelines help to focus the mind on the importance of identifying workplace risks and taking steps to reduce them. A new culpability scale and an emphasis on creating a risk of harm, rather than the outcome of an incident, point the spotlight more closely onto risk management and means that a fine or sentence can still be significant even when someone is not badly injured. Read more

Posted by Maybo on February 22, 2016


Please note: All comments are reviewed before being displayed on our website.