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HSE violence at work guidance updated

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the national independent regulator for health and safety in the workplace, has updated its guidance for employers on violence at work.

The HSE’s guidance defines violence and aggression at work, how to prevent it and how workers can be protected from it.  

It highlights the importance of risk assessment, reporting and learning from incidents and remaining updated on relevant legislation. 

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The update removed outdated content and reminded employers that violence includes verbal abuse or threats, both online and via the phone.  

The guidance also gives specific advice for sectors including retail, which has experienced a rise from 450 cases of violence and abuse per day before the pandemic, to 850 in 2022, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC). 

Risk assessment 

The regulations say employers must perform a risk assessment to identify significant risks to its workers and implement effective control measures. This includes how to prevent and manage violence. 

Fiona McKee, founder of HR consultancy The HR Practice, said employers have a duty to protect workers and should undertake proactive steps to prevent violence at work. 

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Employers should appoint a competent person – in-house or an external consultant – to assess risks and create and implement a plan to reduce them. 

“The plan should include what steps should be taken in the event of an emergency arising and, most importantly, should be shared with all employees and reviewed regularly to ensure everyone is aware of what they should do in the event of an incident occurring.” 

McKee warns that engaging an external consultant still means the employer is liable. 

The HSE’s guidelines also emphasise that employers must consult employees and their representatives on health and safety as part of this assessment to ensure that all risks have been provided for. 

Control measures 

The main control measures recommended are implementing a considered work space (for example, suitable queueing systems and signage) and training staff to prevent and de-escalate violence. 

McKee said: “Employers should invest in training for staff particularly around how to defuse a violent or aggressive situation.   

“All too often, these situations can quickly escalate if the employee is not trained and reacts in a similar way to the aggressor, a situation that could be avoided if the correct training had been provided.”  

There is separate advice for workers, which explains how they can help employers prevent violent incidents at work.   

Recording and reporting 

Employers must report dangerous occurrences to HSE under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR). Workplaces must also record incidents and be sure to adequately support victims. 

The HSE’s full updated advice is available to read here.