This guidance may help employers respond to workplace violence.
Definition of 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. It includes behaviour sometimes described as acting out, challenging behaviour and behaviours of concern.
Have systems in place
Responses to work-related violence will vary depending on the nature and severity of the incident. Systems should be in place that document what to do at the time of, and immediately after, an incident.
A response system should address immediate safety issues, medical treatment, internal reporting and notifications required by external agencies such as police, fire, ambulance and WorkSafe Victoria.
Employers must consult with employees and any health and safety representatives (HSRs) when developing incident management policies and procedures.
Policies and procedures for work-related violence should include:
emergency and evacuation plans
reporting procedures and incident investigation
guidelines on when to call the police
guidelines on when to call ambulance services
sanctions and actions against perpetrators, for example, referral for clinical review
testing and maintenance of communication and duress equipment
regular emergency drills
employee supervision and monitoring
assessing the need for immediate emotional support as well as a plan for ongoing support
Workplace information and training should support incident-response policies and procedures to ensure employees are familiar with them. To ensure an appropriate response, trained and experienced employees should be rostered for high-risk shifts or in high-risk areas.
Require and encourage reporting
Encourage reporting by:
developing and implementing policies and procedures requiring reporting of all incidents
acting on reports as soon as possible
having a consistent and effective response to reports
line supervisors acting appropriately when a report is made
regularly providing information to HSRs, employees and the health and safety committee on incidents and actions taken after incidents and including them in the investigation of incidents, near misses and review of controls
During an incident
Employees can take a range of actions during an incident. Where appropriate, actions include:
asking the aggressor to leave, using calm verbal and nonverbal communication
retreating to a safe location
Refer physical assault, robbery, sexual assault and threats to harm someone to the police.
A workplace incident investigation should still occur when a matter has been referred to police. A workplace investigation will assess whether risk control measures are effective and whether the response procedures worked.
Immediately after an incident
Where appropriate, take the following actions immediately after an incident to minimise injury to employees:
ensure everyone is safe
provide first aid or medical attention or refer to an employee assistance program where necessary
notify WorkSafe Victoria if required
in the event of a notifiable incident, ensure the incident site is preserved in line with the requirements of section 39 of the OHS Act
Investigating incidents will help prevent similar incidents happening again and will help with responses to future incidents. Investigators should be impartial and have appropriate knowledge and experience in occupational health and safety (OHS) issues.
The type of investigation depends on the type of incident. Physical assault, robbery, sexual assault and threats to harm someone should be referred to police for criminal investigation before being investigated internally for OHS implications.
The main reason for an investigation is to prevent future incidents. The investigation should lead to improved prevention measures and response processes.
Look for causes, not blame. Systems fail for many reasons and the people involved are usually not the cause of the incident.
Find out what happened, where it happened, for example, the physical location and environment, and any other relevant details. Do this by conducting interviews and reviewing written reports, client histories, training records, police reports, workplace plans and before-and-after photographs.
Look for causes
Find out possible explanations for the incident, how it happened and whether response systems worked or failed. Consider all aspects of the incident, including the environment, equipment, people and responses, systems of work, workplaces, training, information etc.
Review risk control measures
Ask whether the risk control measures worked as intended and consider, if necessary, how they could provide better protection to employees, clients and visitors. Identify and implement new control measures where necessary.
Document and communicate the results of an investigation to all relevant parties, such as senior management, HSRs, the health and safety committee and affected employees. The investigation report should outline what happened, what has been done, what will be done and when.
This information is from 'Work-related violence: a guide for employers'. The complete guide is available in two formats.