Occupational violence and aggression: Safety basics

Occupational violence and aggression (OVA) is any violence and aggression related to your work. It is unacceptable.


What is occupational violence and aggression

Occupational violence and aggression is when a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in a situation related to their work. It might come from anywhere – clients, customers, the public or even co-workers.

Occupational violence and aggression could look like this

  • eye rolling and sneering
  • yelling, swearing, calling names
  • standing over someone
  • spitting, shoving, tripping, grabbing, hitting, punching
  • threats of violence, threats with weapons
  • sexual assault

These are just some examples of unacceptable behaviour. It can have a negative impact on workers’ physical and mental wellbeing.

Violence and aggression can happen in any industry. It happens more often in health, aged care, disability, youth services, education, law enforcement, retail, hospitality, security, cash-handling, finance and banking.

What can you do about occupational violence


For your employees, you must provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and free of risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable. You also have a duty ensure that workplace activities don’t endanger other people, such as visitors, clients and the public.

Preventing and managing violence and aggression is part of those duties.

Examples of what you should do:

  • Identify violence and aggression hazards in your work and assess the risks.
  • Consult with employees to implement controls to eliminate or reduce the risk of OVA.
  • Promote a culture that does not accept violence and aggression.
  • Develop and implement health and safety policies and initiatives focused on OVA.
  • Encourage reporting and act on these reports. Investigate incidents and review existing controls.
  • Support staff development in de-escalation and processes for early intervention and management.
  • Allocate resources to prevention and management.
  • Support employees who have been exposed to OVA in the workplace.

You can use our guides and tools to help manage and prevent occupational violence in your industry.


  • Identify and report all incidents of violence and aggression to your employer. This is important, so your employer knows about it and can take steps to better prevent and manage it in the future. Your employer can also provide you and your colleagues with appropriate support.
  • Work with your employer on managing risks of violence and aggression. For example, do training and follow work procedures.
  • Follow work procedures that have been put in place to reduce the risk of occupational violence and aggression incidents occurring.
  • If you are affected by occupational violence and aggression, seek support from your manager or your workplace Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider.

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