Workplace Violence

This article provides a thorough overview of creating a robust workplace violence policy, covering aspects such as defining violence, outlining consequences, risk assessment, reporting mechanisms, and training for a violence-free workplace.

Workplace violence and aggression encompass a range of behaviours where employees are threatened, abused, or assaulted in a work setting. This violence can come from various sources, including co-workers, managers, customers, or the general public. Understanding, preventing, and managing workplace violence is crucial for maintaining a safe and healthy work environment.

Defining Workplace Violence

Workplace violence is any action or behaviour that threatens the health and safety of an employee. It includes physical attacks, verbal abuse, and any form of threatening behaviour. The spectrum of violence can range from subtle forms of intimidation to overt physical assaults.

Examples of Workplace Violence

Workplace violence manifests in many forms. Examples, as identified by WorkSafe Victoria, include:

  • Physical Violence: Hitting, punching, shoving, or any form of physical assault.
  • Verbal Aggression: Yelling, swearing, name-calling, or any form of verbal abuse.
  • Intimidation: Behaviours like standing over someone, aggressive eye contact, or sneering.
  • Threatening Behaviour: Making threats with or without a weapon, sexual assault, or any act that instills fear.
  • Subtle Forms of Aggression: Rolling eyes, sarcastic comments, or spitting.

Managing Workplace Violence

As an employer, it's essential to assess the potential for violence and manage risks. This includes:

Comprehensive Risk Assessment for Workplace Violence

Effective management of workplace violence begins with a thorough risk assessment. This process involves a detailed analysis of the workplace to identify potential hazards and scenarios that could lead to violent incidents. Employers should engage with employees to understand their concerns and experiences related to workplace violence. This collaboration can provide valuable insights into potential risks and effective mitigation strategies. Regularly reviewing and updating the risk assessment is crucial to address new challenges or changes in the workplace environment.

Developing Policies and Procedures to Handle Workplace Violence

Creating and implementing clear policies and procedures is crucial in managing workplace violence. These policies should define what constitutes workplace violence, including its physical, verbal, and psychological aspects. They must establish a straightforward process for employees to report incidents of violence, ensuring they can do so without fear of retaliation. Detailed response protocols, including investigation procedures and disciplinary actions, should be outlined. Additionally, the policies should describe preventative measures like environmental design, security enhancements, and behavioral expectations to reduce the likelihood of violent incidents.

Training Employees on De-escalation and Safety

Training employees is vital for equipping them with the skills to handle potentially violent situations. This training should include techniques for calming volatile situations, recognizing early signs of aggression or conflict, and, where relevant, basic self-defense. Employees should also be prepared for extreme cases such as armed threats or active shooter scenarios through emergency response training.

Implementing Employee Support Systems

Providing support to employees affected by workplace violence is essential for their well-being and maintaining a healthy work environment. Access to professional counseling or mental health support should be available for those impacted by violence. Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) can offer additional resources, including psychological counseling and stress management. Creating peer support groups can provide a safe space for employees to share experiences and coping strategies. Ongoing support, including regular check-ins and adjustments to work responsibilities, is crucial for the long-term care of affected employees.

Continuous Improvement and Monitoring

The management of workplace violence requires continuous attention and improvement. Regularly updating policies and training programs based on new insights or incidents is necessary. Analyzing incidents of violence can help in understanding the root causes and improving prevention strategies. Where appropriate, collaboration with local law enforcement can provide guidance and support in managing potential external threats.

Developing a Workplace Violence Policy

A robust workplace violence policy is a cornerstone of maintaining a safe and respectful work environment. Such a policy serves as a clear guide for both employers and employees, outlining the organization's stance on violence and the measures in place to prevent and address it.

Defining Violence and Aggression

The policy should start with a clear definition of what constitutes workplace violence and aggression. This definition needs to encompass a range of behaviors from physical assaults to verbal threats and intimidation. The aim is to ensure that all employees understand what behaviour is unacceptable within the workplace.

Outlining Consequences of Violent Behaviour

It is crucial for the policy to clearly state the consequences of engaging in violent behaviour. This section should articulate that any form of violent behavior is considered gross misconduct and may lead to disciplinary actions, including immediate dismissal. By establishing these consequences, the policy underscores the seriousness with which the organisation views such actions.

Conducting Risk Assessments

The policy should mandate regular risk assessments to identify potential hazards related to workplace violence. These assessments involve evaluating the work environment, work practices, and any past incidents of violence to determine possible risks. Involving employees in these risk assessments is essential as they can provide valuable insights based on their experiences and observations.

Adopting a Zero-Tolerance Approach

A key aspect of the policy is the adoption of a zero-tolerance approach to violence. This approach should be unequivocally communicated to all employees, emphasising that any form of violence, regardless of its nature or severity, will not be tolerated. A zero-tolerance policy helps in creating a culture of safety and respect.

Establishing Reporting Mechanisms

An effective workplace violence policy must include clear and accessible reporting mechanisms. Employees should be encouraged and feel safe to report any incidents or threats of violence. The policy should outline the steps an employee can take to report such incidents and assure them of confidentiality and protection from retaliation.

Preventing Workplace Violence

Effective prevention strategies include:

  • Training Programs: Providing comprehensive training on recognising, reporting, and defusing violent situations.
  • Legal and Duty of Care Education: Making employees aware of their legal responsibilities.
  • Customised Training Content: Tailoring training to suit specific workplace scenarios.
  • Conflict Resolution Skills: Teaching employees conflict resolution and crisis management.


Addressing workplace violence is a multifaceted task involving prevention, policy development, employee training, and support. Employers should remain vigilant and proactive in creating a safe workplace.

For additional assistance, Employment Compass offers expertise in managing workplace violence, with a 24-hour advice line available for support.

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