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Work-related Violence

Work-related violence involves incidents in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work. This definition covers a broad range of actions and behaviours that can create a risk to the health and safety of employees.

Examples of work-related violence can include:

  • biting, spitting, scratching, hitting, kicking
  • pushing, shoving, tripping, grabbing
  • throwing objects
  • verbal threats
  • threatening someone with a weapon, armed robbery
  • sexual assault.

Work-related violence can happen in any industry but often occurs in the health, aged care, disability, youth services, education, law enforcement, retail, hospitality, security, cash-handling, finance and banking industries.

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Employer duties

An employer must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a safe and healthy work environment for their employees (employees include independent contractors engaged by an employer and any employees of the independent contractor). In accordance with their obligations under the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (the OHS Act) this includes providing and maintaining systems of work that are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health and consulting with health and safety representatives and their employees about health and safety issues that may directly affect them to comply.

Consultation about work-related violence must occur when:

  • identifying or assessing hazards or risks in the workplace
  • making decisions about measures to be taken to prevent and manage work-related violence risks 
  • making decisions about information and training on work-related violence
  • proposing changes that may affect the health and safety of employees.

Employers must also provide information, instruction, training or supervision to their employees to enable them to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.

Employee duties

Employees must take reasonable care of their own health and safety in the workplace, and the health and safety of others who may be affected by their actions (including omissions). Employees must also cooperate with their employer with respect to any action to comply with the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (the OHS Act).

Risk factors

External or intrusive work-related violence 

Can occur when a person has no connection to a workplace and their main objective is to obtain cash or other valuables. This can predominantly occur in specific industries such as the retail, security, finance and cash handling, transport and logistics and hospitality.

The key risks include:

  • working alone or in an isolated or remote area; working offsite, and working in the community
    (Note: remote and isolated work refers to situations where employees may be exposed to risks because the nature of location of their work means they are unable to call for assistance in an emergency)
  • having few workers on site 
  • working at night or outside business hours
  • working in unpredictable environments
  • communicating face to face with customers 
  • showing people real estate property or goods and services
  • handling cash, drugs and / or valuables.

Client-initiated work-related violence

Involves a person in the care of an organisation or someone seeking a service. This can occur in industries such as hospitality, healthcare, disability, education, emergency services, police, prisons and welfare and community services.

The key risks include:

  • providing care to people who are in distress, afraid, ill or incarcerated 
  • service methods cause frustration, resentment or misunderstanding
  • providing care or services to people who have unreasonable expectations of what an organisation and/or employee can provide them 
  • enforcement activities (for example, Police work, security)
  • carrying (or having access to) drugs 
  • handling cash or valuables
  • working alone or in an isolated area.

Further information

You can find more information about the prevention and management of work-related violence in the following WorkSafe publications: