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Tackling the threat of workplace violence

Of the many issues business owners and managers have to face, one that might be easy to overlook, despite its seriousness, is workplace violence.

Recent research has indicated that this is a very real problem in the UK.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) commissioned a poll by YouGov which found that one in eight people have experienced some sort of violence at work, with incidents ranging from being pushed or spat on to being punched or even stabbed.

With over 31 million people currently working in the UK, the findings suggest that nearly four million employees have been the victim of violence at some point in their career.

For many it is a recurring problem, with a fifth (20 per cent) of those who had experienced violence in the workplace reporting it happening more than ten times.

Medical and healthcare workers appear to be at the highest risk of encountering violence in their job, with 22 per cent of staff in the sector reporting bad experiences in this area, followed by those working in education (12 per cent), hospitality and leisure (11 per cent), retail (nine per cent) and manufacturing (six per cent).

This means up to 870,000 medical and health workers, 470,000 education professionals and 430,000 people working in the hospitality and leisure industry could have been involved in violent incidents while trying to do their jobs, the TUC noted.

Frances O'Grady, the trade union organisation's general secretary, said workplace violence has become "far too common" in the UK.

She added: "These disturbing findings show that millions of people are likely to experience violence and intimidation at some point in their working life - with A&E staff, nurses, teachers, hotel receptionists and shop workers particularly at risk.

"There is no excuse for physically assaulting someone. Workplaces must be safe for everyone.

"All over the country, union reps play a key role in stopping violence at work and supporting union members who are victims of abuse. We need strong unions working with employers to combat unacceptable behaviour and protect workers."

How to crack down on workplace violence

Employers that have become increasingly concerned about the threat of workplace violence should ensure they are taking all possible measures to reduce the risk of the problem occurring in the first place, and to respond to it when it does.

Here are a few simple steps that can help you keep your staff and your business safe:

•    Have a visible security presence to deter any potential instigators of violence and to respond to problems should they occur.
•    Adopt a zero-tolerance approach - threatening language and verbal abuse should also be treated as workplace violence to prevent them from escalating.
•    Ensure that all workers know what procedures to follow to report instances of violence.
•    Make forms available so all staff - including those who don't speak English as their first language - can submit written reports of workplace violence.
•    Keep employees informed about the actions being taken to follow up on reports of violence.

 

Posted by Andrew Miller

Image courtesy of iStock

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