Aggression and violence are everyday realities for some people at work.
Let's look at the facts. In 2014/15, according to HSE statistics:
- 285,000 adults were victims of work-related violence including physical assault and threats
- There were 569,000 incidents of violence at work
- Violence at work affects men and women
- In 54% of cases, strangers were the perpetrators
- It's the third biggest cause of injuries in the health sector
Top tips to tackle aggression and violence at work
- Be aware of potential flashpoints - which may trigger violence or aggressive outbursts - such as a delay or hold-up, communicating a difficult or negative decision (turning someone's application down), stress (having no choice), frustration (a lack of information), resentment (a perception of no rights), and so on.
- Act quickly to defuse the situation - don't ignore trigger points or things will deteriorate further. Instead, step up - for example, by apologising for any delay or providing information - to calm things down.
- Avoid situations which may make you more vulnerable, if possible - such as travelling alone, carrying cash or medication, handling complaints alone, etc. Follow company rules on accompanied visits or meet in a public place if you visit vulnerable people with a history of violence.
- Familiarise yourself with security systems and measures - including security screens, alarms, emergency codes or codewords, etc - so you know what to do.
- If there's an incident, use de-escalation techniques to stop the situation getting worse - for example, you should talk in a low, calm voice; encourage the aggressor to focus on the facts (being rational stops you being too emotional); use positive body language; and - if it's safe to do so - stop them 'playing to a crowd' by going somewhere more private.
- Use posters to set ground rules - have a zero-tolerance approach and warn people upfront via posters that abusive and violent behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
- If you're a victim of violence of work, tell your manager - it's not usually your fault so don't be embarrassed to speak out. Share your experiences so your colleagues can protect themselves too!
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