By Leon Harris CPP
Published in INsite, February/March 2002
Australia is by no means immune to workplace violence. It is evident when comparing research undertaken within the health and aged care area and official crime statistics that workplace violence is largely unreported.
Workplace violence can be described as any incident resulting in an injury to an employer or employee, whether real or perceived, from being threatened, abused or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work.
Violence can be perpetrated from many sources, e.g. a former employee, a resident, a resident’s relative, an estranged spouse (of a staff member), an intruder in the facility, or within the client’s home environment.
Management often fail to consider the negatives resulting from workplace violence. Some of these include:
Employers have a statutory and common law duty of care to provide a safe workplace to employees.
With the many accredited personal injury lawyers advertising a ‘no win no fee’ policy, management must be aware they are on notice that should workplace violence eventuate, they are at risk of civil action. Insurance does not cover the cost of the erosion of relationships with residents and staff, nor the huge distraction from running the business.
Compensation awarded to plaintiffs by the courts vary and depend on the degree of injury, suffering, ongoing medical/psychological treatment and loss of potential income. A number of recent cases handed down have resulted in payments of around $750,000. What many people are not aware of are the numerous claims that are settled out of court. Some out of court settlements have exceeded this figure.
It is important that management provide leadership and focus in crime prevention.
There are a number of steps that should be taken to identify and effectively manage workplace violence.
Step 1 – Identify the Risks
Undertake a security risk assessment that adequately includes issues of workplace violence. The process must involve discussions with staff across all shifts, including casuals and agency personnel, not forgetting those working in isolation, e.g. laundry.
Step 2 – Develop and Implement a Security Risk Action Plan
This must be done in consultation with staff and the outcomes monitored. A senior person needs to drive the improvement process throughout the organisation. External expert advice and support may need to be engaged.
Step 3 – Treat the Risk
Reinforcement strategies should include:
Step 4 – Monitor and Review
The security risk action plan requires programmed monitoring and review to ensure relevance and credibility. The monitoring and review process should be objective and involve employees at all levels. If this can be achieved, best practice is in sight and duty of care should be more easily proven.
Organisations should refer to Standards AS/NZS 4360:1999 Risk Management and AS 3806:1998 Compliance Programs.
Leon Harris CPP, is the principal consultant for Harris Crime Prevention Services.
Harris Crime Prevention Services provides on an occasional basis articles by other Industry experts, such as: How Airports apply designing out crime principles