Occupational violence and aggression is defined as any incident where an employee is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances arising out of, or in the course of, their employment. Adapted from Work Safe Guidance Note, Feb 2003
Within this definition:
Threat means a statement or behaviour that causes a person to believe they are in danger of being physically attacked; it may involve an actual or implied threat to safety, health or wellbeing and;
Physical attack means direct or indirect application of force by a person to the body of, or clothing or equipment worn by, another person, where that application creates a risk to health and safety.
The term ‘occupational violence’ applies to all forms of physical attacks on employees, including:
- Striking, kicking, scratching, biting, spitting or any other type of direct physical contact;
- Throwing objects;
- Attacking with knives, guns, clubs or any other type of weapon;
- Pushing, shoving, tripping and grabbing; and
- Any form of indecent physical contact.
Aggression can include sexual harassment or assault or where an employee is abused or threatened.
‘Physical attack’ is defined without consideration of the attacker’s intent.
In healthcare, clients may exhibit challenging behaviour because of their condition or disability. Regardless of the intent of the perpetrator, or whether the behaviour is a result of clinical symptoms, violence to workers is unacceptable. It is important to identify the reasons behind such behavioural issues in order to control the risks.
Tips for crisis prevention
If you encounter aggression in the workplace, remember the following:
- Become familiar with your own environment
- Remove potential weapons e.g. scissors/knives
- Never intervene alone (use a buddy system)
- Keep escape route open - don’t isolate yourself
- Respect personal space (yours and theirs)
- Avoid over-reacting
- Remain calm
- Be empathetic and understanding; display non threatening behaviour, body language and tone of voice
- Clarify messages and utilise active listening skills
- Ignore challenging questions and permit to vent verbally in an appropriate manner
- Isolate aggressive patients if practical
- Set and enforce reasonable limits
- Retreat and call other staff, security or police
- Re-evaluate the situation, know your limitations
- Report, record and seek debriefing