Prevent work-related violence in transport, logistics and warehousing

How to prevent and manage work-related violence.

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Overview

How this helps your business

Exposure to aggressive or violent incidents, especially if it happens repeatedly, can have serious, ongoing effects on your staff's physical and mental health.

When you understand the risk factors, you can begin to find ways to reduce the risk of violence and aggression in your workplace.

Developing a prevention policy clarifies how you expect your staff, clients, and passengers to behave. This process also allows for collaboration with your staff on solutions, and shows you are committed to their health and safety. In some workplaces, aggression and violence is called occupational violence.

As well as causing injury, distress, fear and anxiety, work-related violence and aggression can result in costs to your business due to absenteeism, increased staff turnover, poor staff morale and higher insurance premiums.

Key stats and facts


37%  

of workers report being sworn or yelled at in the workplace.

SafeWork Australia, 2017, Workplace bullying and violence infographic


21%  

of bus drivers experience abuse or aggression (in some form) daily.

BusVic, 2015, Prevention of Aggression to Bus Drivers

Step 1

Learn more on this topic

No one should ever feel that violence and aggression is 'part of the job'.

Occupational violence is any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work. Most of us understand that extreme acts of violence are unacceptable. But not everyone realises there is a scale of violence and aggression.

Violence and aggression includes:

  • aggressive gestures or expressions such as eye rolling and sneering
  • verbal abuse such as yelling, swearing and name calling
  • intimidating physical behaviour such as; standing in someone's personal space, standing over them or blocking exits or disrupting safe driving
  • attempted assault
  • physical assault such as biting, spitting, scratching, pushing, shoving, tripping and grabbing
  • extreme acts of violence and aggression such as hitting, punching, strangulation, kicking, personal threats, threats with weapons and sexual assault.

Watch the below video from bus drivers Paul and Angela as they approach safe work in their industry, including how they handle working with the public.

Step 2

Show leadership commitment

Prevention and management of aggression and violence requires active engagement from all levels within your organisation, that needs to start with the board and senior leadership.

Business leaders need to be active and visible. Board members, senior leaders and managers can have a powerful influence when they communicate their commitment to a workplace culture free of aggression and violence, and ongoing health and safety improvements.

Senior leadership can show their commitment to preventing aggression and violence in your workplace by:

  • setting prevention of aggression and violence objectives
  • identifying who is accountable in the organisation for the delivery of prevention of aggression and violence
  • ensuring effective health and safety systems of work are in place to identify and control aggression and violence risk
  • allocating resources and identifying training to prevent and manage aggression and violence
  • developing and promoting a prevention of aggression and violence policy and key initiatives
  • consulting with and supporting employees in prevention of aggression and violence
  • monitoring and reporting on prevention of aggression and violence outcomes
  • showing a commitment to report all incidents and treat seriously without judgement, while supporting all employees in managing aggression and violence
  • acting on issues and opportunities to ensure continuous improvement

Step 3

Assess the risks

In some workplaces, there may not be a history of aggressive or violent incidents being reported, but this does not mean hazards do not exist.

To find out where your hazards come from, try some of the below:

  • Discuss with your staff, or include the topic in a staff survey
  • Discuss with your employee or employer associations
  • Complete an organisational self-assessment
  • Review incident reports and injury data
  • Complete a walk through of your workplace and identify design issues that may increase the risk of aggression and violence

Completing a risk assessment of the hazards you have identified will help you and your staff work out the most appropriate controls to implement. Head to page 3 and 4 of WorkSafe Victoria's 'Preventing and responding to work related violence' and complete a risk assessment. Appendix B has some suggestions for control measures.

Step 4

Investigate all incidents

Decreasing the number of aggressive and violent incidents in the industry starts with every incident being reported and investigated. The incident investigation tool helps you collect information about the incident, document the factors that may have contributed to it, and plan changes to controls that can be put in place to prevent a similar incident happening.

After an incident, it is important to gather as much information as possible about what happened. This will help you to reduce the likelihood of a similar incident happening again, and improve your overall approach to aggression and violence. The way that investigations are conducted sends an important message to your employees about your workplace's commitment to preventing aggression and violence. It is critical that all incidents are investigated thoroughly and that support is provided to any individuals involved, including those who may have witnessed the incident.

Follow the below principles for conducting a thorough investigation:

Find out what happened, where it happened (e.g. the physical location and environment) and any other relevant detail. Do this by conducting interviews and reviewing written reports, include passenger history if applicable, training records, police reports, workplace plans and before-and-after photographs.

Find possible explanations for the incident, how it happened, whether response systems worked or failed in any way. Consider all aspects of the incident – the environment, equipment, people, and responses. There is usually more than one contributing factor to an incident.

Find out if the risk control measures worked as intended and consider, if necessary, how they could provide better protection to employees and clients/passengers. Identify and implement new control measures where necessary.

Step 5

Review your policy

A prevention of aggression and violence policy outlines how everyone is expected to act in your workplace. The policy can be drafted in a positive way, such as outlining how everyone should be treated at work, how staff should respond if there is an incident and outline what people shouldn’t do.

Your staff must be consulted during its development and regular reviews. It could be a stand-alone prevention of aggression and violence policy, or you could integrate aggression and violence into your general occupational health and safety policy. Communication of the policy and ensuring everyone knows where to find it is extremely important for success.

Your policy needs to be relevant for your workplace. Utilise the below policy templates to assist in the development or review of your policy.

Step 6

Policy checklist

Review the list below to check if there is anything further you might need to consider. Ask some of your employees to read your draft policy and give you feedback.

Will your employees know how to prevent and respond to aggression and violence based on your policy?

Prevention of aggression and violence policy key elements checklist:

  • Definition of what sort of behaviour counts as aggression and violence
  • Explanation of how staff will be supported if they are exposed to aggression or violence
  • Statement that aggression and violence is not tolerated
  • What management and staff should do if aggression or violence happens
  • A commitment to report all incidents and treat seriously without judgement
  • Key contacts for reporting incidents
  • Outline of the responsibilities of different people, e.g. senior managers, employees, security, owner of vehicles
  • The responsible service of alcohol, if applicable, such as; service in aeroplanes, car transport services and boat services
  • The process for identifying safety issues, deciding how serious they are, and attempting to reduce them.
  • Where information included in the policy came from (a good source is WorkSafe's 'A guide for employers – Preventing and responding to work-related violence' or if applicable, 'Prevention of Aggression to Bus Drivers')
  • Training for staff
  • Who has approved or endorsed the policy
  • When the policy will be reviewed and how it will be evaluated

Step 7

Focus on safe design

Good workplace and work system design can reduce or eliminate the risk of aggression and violence, and optimise workflow and communication.

Within the transport, logistics and warehousing industry, it is important to complete a thorough review of your staff's working environments. Below is a list of some of the physical and workplace designs that best manage and prevent violence in the workplace. Remember, the best way to manage risks is to eliminate them at the source. If not, look at substitution and then protective measures. Follow the hierarchy of controls.

Looking back at the hazards you identified in Step 3, identify 2-3 suggestions from the lists below that would be suitable control measures in your workplace.

Some physical methods employers can use to reduce the risk of workplace aggression and violence are:

  • increasing building and vehicle security
  • separating staff from the public with protective barriers ie. target harden (plastic screens) in buses, trams and taxis, and other people moving services
  • improving communication and alarm systems
  • storing cash, drugs and valuables securely
  • using safety glass
  • removing access to things that could become weapons – for example, tools that help lower ramps
  • improving lighting
  • installing duress alarms and emergency communication systems such as 2-way radios
  • Global Positioning System (GPS) vehicle tracking
  • controlling access to staff or driver
  • making sure staff have a safe place to move to
  • arranging furniture so there are no hidden areas
  • adding CCTV, door locks, anti-jump screens

You can also reduce the risk by changing the way tasks are performed, for example, with:

  • policies and procedures for common causes of violence and aggression in the industry such as paying for services, fees, vehicle or timetable issues
  • procedures for working alone or in isolation
  • policies stating that action will be taken if employees are exposed to aggression or violence
  • responsible serving of alcohol to passengers/clients
  • controlling access to vehicles
  • procedures for safe opening and closing of businesses
  • check-in procedure when staff are working off site or on routes
  • maps to show safe access to and from workplaces and vehicles
  • ID badges to identify staff and legitimate visitor
  • on-board kits – flowchart/checklist of the incident reporting process, key contact details, pre-shift and mid-route checklists

Bus Association Victoria, 2015, Ideas and Resource for Improving Health and Wellness

Step 8

Provide training

An in-depth training needs analysis should be completed before any training programs are introduced. A needs analysis can be conducted using questionnaires, staff surveys or focus groups in specific work areas. Training needs can also be identified through incident analysis, OHS systems reviews and the use of risk calculator matrices. Use the information on page 5 of WorkSafe Victoria's 'Preventing and responding to work related violence' below to assist your workplace.

Training can help give employees skills to reduce workplace aggression and violence. Some examples are:

  • including aggression and violence prevention in your induction training
  • what to do in an emergency
  • how to de-escalate aggression
  • how to manage difficult behaviours and conflict
  • general communication skills

Make sure that training is an ongoing process that is maintained and reviewed.

Step 9

Review and keep improving

The final step to managing occupational aggression and violence risks is to review how you are going and make sure the controls you have put in place are making a difference.

Work with your teams to set short-term and long-term KPIs. Schedule in times to systematically review your data and keep looking for ways to improve.

Once you've made a new change, you should review it after a while to see whether it's working as well as you'd hoped, and make notes on where you could improve.

This helps you make better decisions and shows you are committed to improving the business.

It's important to ask your employees their opinion when implementing a new strategy. It also gets your workplace involved, and passes on a sense of personal responsibility and collaboration, allowing for continued improvement.

Tips:

  • Ask employees the right questions: are we doing things right? Or are there better ways it can be done?
  • Have regular conversations with all employees and keep them engaged. If something didn't work, be transparent and get them involved in ways to improve things.
  • Review regularly - set a date and stick to it!
  • Has your goal been achieved? If not, why?
  • Appoint an employee to be responsible for monitoring and evaluating so they can keep track of how things are changing over time.

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