4. Control measures to prevent violence and aggression
Once you have assessed the risk of violence in your workplace, and where you cannot remove it, you must put the right controls in place to protect your workers.
Often no single control measure will be completely effective on its own and it is best to use a variety of approaches.
You should reduce the risks so far as ‘reasonably practicable’. This means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or trouble.
The following are examples of controls, but this is not an exhaustive list and it is important to ensure the measures identified adequately control the risks.
The design of your workplace can increase the risk of violence happening to your workers. Think about:
- space and layout, for example ensuring good visibility throughout your workplace and providing good lighting to remove blind spots and ensure workers and others can be seen
- places where tension could grow, for example implementing a suitable queuing system
- security measures, like CCTV, trained security personnel, body-worn cameras, alarm systems, building security – they can act as a deterrent but also provide evidence for the police to convict offenders
- carefully worded signage and visual displays as these can remind people to respect each other and not abuse workers
The work you do
How jobs are designed or carried out may increase the risk of violence to your workers. Here are some examples of control measures:
- have good communication between you and your workers
- work closely with others, like the police, local authorities, local community groups and other organisations in the same sector
- raise awareness with the public to target specific forms of violence, for example in the local community or through national campaigns
- consider how workers engage with the public and what might trigger people to act aggressively – you could manage expectations with clear information about delays or problems
- manage lone working by making arrangements to keep in touch with people who work away from their base, for example using mobile phones and personal alarms
- ensure you have adequate staffing levels to manage violence and respond to incidents
Training can be used to prevent and manage violence. It can provide workers with appropriate skills to reduce or diffuse potential incidents.
Training should be available to everyone working for you who may be at risk, including cleaners and maintenance workers. This also applies to temporary or agency workers.
However, you must ensure the level of training provided to workers reflects the specific needs of the work activities identified in your risk assessment.
Basic training in the principles of managing violence often includes:
- identifying underlying and immediate causes
- understanding that it should not be accepted as part of the job
- recognising warning signs, such as body language
- relevant interpersonal skills, such as verbal and non-verbal communication skills
- details of working practices and control measures
- incident reporting procedures
You might need to include additional training, such as physical intervention techniques, if there is a serious risk of physical aggression towards your workers.
Training needs should be monitored and reviewed regularly and training courses evaluated for their effectiveness. You should carry out refresher training periodically to ensure workers’ skills are kept up to date.
Wherever you work, here are some of the basic techniques you can use to calm situations down and prevent violence and aggression:
- be polite and use a clear, calm voice
- relax your posture and keep your hands by your side
- keep a safe distance and allow personal space
- face the person and maintain eye contact
- show empathy and that you are listening and acknowledging their feelings
- avoid raising your voice and arguing
- offer alternative solutions to their problem so the person has a way out other than aggression
Trust your instincts. If the situation does not feel safe, and de-escalation is not working, then you could use a diversion tactic, such as advising that you need to check with your manager. If none of these actions help, you could follow your emergency procedures, such as using a panic alarm.
Check what you have done
Check on a regular basis how well your arrangements are working, consulting workers and their representatives as you do so.
Keep records of incidents and examine them regularly to understand if your control measures are working and if the problem is changing.
Find out more
We have examples of how employers have found solutions to prevent violence at work.