A new study has revealed that over a third of public sector staff have been violently attacked or threatened at work.
Public service staff provide our society with much needed services such as education, health care and emergency response. Yet despite working hard to provide others with a better quality of life, a worrying amount are facing violence at work on a regular and alarming basis.
A rise in cases involving violence against those in the public sector was so noticeable that injury at work specialists, Slater and Gordon, undertook a survey to reveal the true figures. They surveyed 1,000 public sector employees.
- Almost a fifth suffered physical violence at work
- More than 55% experienced aggressive or intimidating behaviour
- 2 in 3 nurses had experienced violence or threats
- 1 in 4 teachers had been threatened and 13% attacked
- Punches were thrown in over half the overall attacks which also included kicking, slapping and spitting
- Others reported weapons being used, attempts to strangle them and sexual assault
- 9 of out 10 of those attacked said it happened on more than one occasion
The effect of violence on employees
As well as the obvious physical injuries caused by violence, many victims suffer from mental health issues following an attack. More than a quarter of those surveyed suffered anxiety as a result of violence, with 11% developing depression and one in 20 reporting post-traumatic stress disorder.
Additionally, more than one in five people who had been attacked or witnessed a colleague being attacked, had considered quitting.
These are alarming statistics as they reveal the massive effect violence and aggression can have on employee wellbeing. Yet as employers we hold a moral and legal responsibility to protect the physical and mental wellbeing of our employees.
What should be done to prevent violence at work?
Sadly, of the 1,000 public sector workers surveyed, 49% agreed that threats from the public were just part of the job and more than a third said they no longer always felt safe at work.
It is crucial that violence and aggression is tackled in the workplace to prevent this attitude and help create a positive, safe work space.
As an employer there are a few simple steps you can take:
- Risk assessment
Assess whether there are certain areas, job roles or customers that pose a higher risk and take extra steps to protect your employees.
- Develop a violence at wok policy
Following on from your risk assessment, you should develop a policy that tackles the identified risks. This could include a number of measures such as sending employees out in pairs when visiting a higher risk client or implementing extra training and equipment to your workforce
Ensure you are clear that aggression and violence is not an acceptable part of the job and employee wellbeing is a top priority for the business
Encourage your employees to report any incidents no matter how small to reinforce the above message and aid you in your ongoing risk assessment
Provide training to all frontline employees on handling aggression and violence
- Implement lone worker alarms or devices
If you have frontline employees who work alone, it is key that they are able to signal for help when faced with aggression or violence. Consider devices that offer a discreet panic and duress pin.