Violence in the Workplace

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines work-related violence as:

Any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work

This can include verbal abuse or threats as well as physical attacks.

In 60% of cases of workplace violence, strangers were the offenders. Among incidents where the offender was known, the offenders were most likely to be clients or a member of the public known through work.

Victims of actual or threatened violence at work said that the offender was under the influence of alcohol in 38% of incidents, and under the influence of drugs in 26% of incidents.

If there is a possibility of your staff suffering from an act of violence then this must be included in your risk assessments, in line with the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

If there is a risk, you must introduce measures to protect your staff. This may include policies and procedures on violence. You also need to make sure that your staff know what to do if they are faced with violence.

Jobs may need redesigning to minimise the risk of violence. In some cases, you may need to use measures such CCTV monitoring, physical barriers and personal alarms.

Staff who feel threatened at work are likely to be absent on a regular basis and may be stressed. If they are assaulted, you may be faced with an expensive civil claim or even a fine from the Courts following prosecution.

Legal requirements

Health and safety law applies to risks from violence, just as it does to other risks from work. The main pieces of relevant legislation are:

  • The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act)
    Employers have a legal duty under this Act to ensure, so far as it is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees.
  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
    Employers must consider the risks to employees (including the risk of reasonably foreseeable violence); decide how significant these risks are; decide what to do to prevent or control the risks; and develop a clear management plan to achieve this.
  • The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR)
    Employers must notify their enforcing authority in the event of an accident at work to any employee resulting in death, major injury, on incapacity for normal work for three or more days. This includes any act of non-consensual physical violence done to a person at work.
  • Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 (a) and The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 (b)
    Employers must inform, and consult with, employees in good time on matters relating to their health and safety. Employee representatives, either appointed by recognised trade unions under (a) or elected under (b) may make representations to their employer on matters affecting the health and safety of those they represent.

Contact us if you require any advice!


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