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Workplace violence – employers' duties

Statistics show that work place violence is on the rise; RIDDOR reported 4069 over-seven-day injuries resulting from acts of violence in 2013-14.

The HSE defines work related violence as "any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work" and the definition includes both verbal and physical abuse. 

Statistics show that work place violence is on the rise; RIDDOR has reported 4069 over-seven-day injuries resulting from acts of violence in the work place in 2013-14, up from 3697 in 2012-13. This constitutes an increase of more than 8% in one year. Interestingly, RIDDOR does not include reports of verbal abuse which is at odds with the HSE’s definition of work related violence.

Workers most at risk from work related violence are, broadly speaking, from service sector occupations including social care, the emergency services, hospitals, transport staff, traffic enforcement officers, prison officers and counter service staff in banks and post offices.

Employers have a statutory duty to safeguard their employees from violence under section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers to assess risks to employees including risks of work related violence. Additionally, Regulation 4 requires an employer to make arrangements for planning, organising, controlling, monitoring and reviewing health and safety effectively, including the need to protect employees from exposure to reasonably foreseeable violence.

Ways in which employers can meet their duties include providing employees with information and training to help combat the risk of work related violence. Key training topics include how to wear and use personal protective equipment, how to report concerns about incidents of violence, the employer’s attitude to work related violence and the legal limits of self defence.

Employers can also give thought to the arrangement of workplaces; for example, seating, lighting and security measures (coded locks on doors, panic alarms and CCTV). Other initiatives include replacing cash handling systems with payment cards, avoiding employees working alone and making regular contact with remote workers.