Prevent work-related violence in your small business

Learn about work-related violence and  develop a policy to prevent and manage it.

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Overview

How this helps your business

Being exposed to aggressive or violent incidents, especially if it happens repeatedly, can have serious, ongoing effects on employees' physical and mental health and wellbeing.

When you understand the risk factors, you can find ways of working that reduce the risk of violence and aggression.

Developing an aggression and violence prevention policy makes it clear how you expect your employees, customers and clients to behave, helps you work with your employees on solutions and shows you are committed to your employees' health and safety.

Key stats and facts


37%  

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


31%  

of mental health workers' compensation claims made by workers under 20 years were from exposure to workplace violence.

Step 1: Learn more on this topic

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

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 or standing over them
  • 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, sexual assault.

These videos were made to highlight aggression and violence in the health industry, but the message that everyone has a right to feel safe at work is true for all workplaces.

The fact sheet tells you what increases the risk of aggression and violence in your workplace and gives suggestions for successful prevention strategies other employers have used.

Step 2: Consult your staff

A safe workplace is more easily achieved when employers and employees talk to each other about any problems that come up and work together to fix them.

Starting conversations about what aggression and violence looks like in your workplace, and what could be done to better prevent and manage it, is the first step in creating an aggression-free workplace. That might look like calling out poor behaviour and setting boundaries about how people work together respectfully, including customers and suppliers.

Having these discussions in a non-judgemental way helps you build trust within your team.

There are many ways you can talk with your employees about aggression and violence including:

  • one-on-one discussions with your managers and employees.
  • when you casually walk around your workplace with your employees.
  • through your health and safety representatives (if you have them).
  • having OHS as an agenda item at your regular meetings and use this time to talk about aggression and violence. These may be 'toolbox talks', production meetings, staff meetings or any way people in your business communicate with each other.

Step 3: Write or review your policy

A workplace aggression and violence policy sets out how everyone is expected to act in your workplace. It can be drafted in a positive way, such as outlining how everyone should be treated at work, how employees should respond if there is an incident as well as outlining what people shouldn’t do.

Your employees must be able to have their say in what the policy will be. It could be a stand-alone workplace prevention of aggression and violence policy, or you can include information on aggression and violence as part of your general occupational health and safety policy. What's important is that everyone knows where to find it.

Your policy needs to be relevant for your workplace. This template and sample will give you some ideas to get started, but remember to customise it to suit your workplace.

Is your workplace aggression and violence prevention policy ready to go?

Use this list to see what else you might need to think about. 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 now?

To really work well, it needs to be developed with input from your employees.

Prevention of aggression and violence policy checklist:

  • What sort of behaviour counts as aggression and violence
  • Employees will be supported if they are exposed to aggression or violence
  • Aggression and violence is not tolerated
  • What management and employees should do if aggression or violence happens
  • Why it's important to report incidents
  • Who to report incidents to
  • Outline of the responsibilities of different people, e.g. senior managers, employees, security
  • The process for identifying safety issues, deciding how serious they are, and attempting to reduce them
  • Where you got information from (a good source is WorkSafe's A guide for employers – Preventing and responding to work-related violence)
  • Who has approved or endorsed the policy
  • When the policy will be reviewed

Step 4: Share with staff

Use your meetings or 'toolbox talks' to discuss your prevention of aggression and violence policy and procedures, and encourage your employees to ask any questions. Share the documents widely so that all employees have access to them: you could display them on your notice boards or share them via email.

More information

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Disclaimer: The WorkWell Toolkit provides general information only. Please consider your specific circumstances, needs and seek appropriate professional advice.