Workplace Violence Guidance and Support

Monday, 5th April 2021

Workplace violence can affect any organisation and take many forms. Proactive and effective actions are necessary to reduce the risk of harm and organisational disruption. Trident Manor provides a wide range of services to prevent and reduce the impact of such workplace violence.

Workplace Violence Guidance and Support

Trident Manor has worked with several clients in the prevention and/or response to workplace violence. Workplace violence will never go away and can affect every organisation in the world. The sources of the violence are often colleagues within the workplace or people with whom a relationship (personal or professional) exists. Workplace violence is unacceptable in any format and organisations have a moral and legal duty of care to provide a safe working environment, including from violence.

Violence adopts many forms and include mental, physical, and the fear of either. It can be racially motivated, misogynistic, or personal in nature, and it can take place in the office, when visiting clients, or travelling internationally. Irrespective of whether individuals have fixed workplaces or flexible working arrangements, anywhere somebody undertakes activities on behalf of their employer can legally represent a ‘workplace’ and as such added protection should be afforded.

The following advice may help organisations reduce their exposure to workplace violence and help keep stay safe and secure.

Threat, Risk, and Vulnerability Assessment (TRVA): Before effective measures can be introduced to reduce the likelihood or impact of workplace violence it is important to correctly assess the threats, risks, and vulnerabilities that YOUR organisation faces. There should never be a generic assessment or evaluation because one size does not fit all, even within the same organisation. It is important to assess the threat sources and how relevant they are to your location. Are there potential insider threat sources, (bullies, racist, sexual predators) are there external threat sources (customers, suppliers, family members) or are there indiscriminate threat sources that have no direct association with your organisation but who could target your organisation or staff within (terrorist, organised crime groups, corrupt officials)? It is only by understanding the different threats sources that can impact your organisation can you start assessing the risks and your organisational vulnerabilities.

As with any risk assessment process it is important to consider the likelihood of a threat source impacting your organisation and the consequences of it, not only on individuals but also on morale, operational effectiveness, and organisational reputation. If your organisation has a single line entry in your risk register (if you have one) for violence you are not only playing lip service to the risk management process, but you are probably not addressing genuine personal and organisational risks that exist.

Understanding the threats and risks that exist allows a vulnerability assessment to be undertaken that enables a critical eye review to be taken to identify gaps in organisational activities or measures that help protect staff from violence. By undertaking the vulnerability assessment risk management/control measures can be introduced that are targeted at the issues in hand, which in turn reduces unnecessary wastage in time, effort and financially.

Governance: By undertaking the TRVA it should be quickly established whether the governance relating to workplace violence is robust, effective, or needs addressing. There should always be a ZERO TOLERANCE approach to workplace violence.

The policies, practices, procedures that you introduce should be there to reduce the risk of violence, outline the consequences of act of workplace violence, and clearly outline actions that should be taken if workplace violence occurs.

By ensuring robust governance regarding workplace violence the organisation will take great steps in reducing the likelihood of violence from insider threats, it helps minimise exposure to workplace violence threats, and it can help reduce the impact through proactive interventions.

Good governance can deliver confidence within the workforce that the organisation is meeting its duty of care obligations, it can reduce the likelihood of subjectivity creeping into organisational activities, and it can help protect the organisation legally if things do go wrong.

Zero Tolerance: Workplace violence can have a devastating impact on organisations through low morale, loss of productivity, lawsuits, and reputational damage. By adopting a zero-tolerance approach to workplace violence the risks of its acceptance in any form are greatly reduced and the likelihood of a robust, protective culture increased.

Zero tolerance should mean that the organisation is working proactively to prevent (Proactive Prevention) occurrences in the first instance. A violent act should not occur before action is taken, an effective approach identifies violence indicators and takes positive steps to interdict them before manifesting into actions.

Where complaints are raised, they should never be dismissed, and investigations should take place to establish the facts and minimise any potential exposure to harm. Early investigations may enable the threat source to be identified and proactive steps taken to minimise the likelihood of violence or to instigate actions designed to deter and prevent violence from occurring.

Away from the Office: With ever reducing global markets the chances of members of an organisation having to travel on behalf of work are increasing. Whenever a member of staff is sent to a new location a TRVA should be undertaken (not just for workplace violence but for all risks) to identify, reduce or mitigate workplace violence occurring. Not assessing or considering TRV is morally and possibly legally negligent. Even if travelling to a location where staff have previously visited to it is important to review the TRVA to ensure that it remains fit for purpose and no new threats or risks have appeared since the last trip.

Considerations should be made regarding modes of travel, accommodation, means of communication, and if necessary whether additional security measures (equipment, procedures, or bodyguards) are necessary. These should be reviewed if new information comes to light or incidents of note that could impact the staff member occur, this should be a continuous process.

Example: Trident Manor had clients travelling to an area where religious tensions existed, and acts of terror were a regular occurrence. It was important that a full TRVA was undertaken due to the fluidity of the security situation on the ground. Transportation was provided for their exclusive use whilst in country, but it was assessed that bodyguards were not necessary; however, an in-country security resource was available 24/7 should they be needed. A communications strategy was created whereby intelligence updates were provided to the party daily and a communication check was carried out at 1800 hrs daily. The trip went ahead without incident and the clients were able to successfully complete the work that was needed.

Training & Education: It is important that all members of staff are aware of any policy or procedure that relates to workplace violence. Briefings, posters, e Learning, or direct messaging are all ways of educating staff. As a part of the organisational strategy, it could be that formal training programmes are delivered to all staff. Trident Manor has clients who receive annual workplace violence prevention training.

Where additional risks are identified in the workplace it is important that specific training is provided. This could be Conflict Avoidance and Communication Skills through to Hostile Environment (HEAT) and defensive driving training takes place.

Conclusion: The more an organisation can reduce the likelihood and impact of workplace violence the safer they will feel. This directly impacts productivity, wellness and welfare of staff, staff retention, and organisational reputation.

Legally it demonstrates a proactive approach to risk management and ensuring a safe working environment, morally it is the right thing to do.

Ultimately, there are no negatives to proactively preventing workplace violence and all organisations are encouraged to address this matter.

Trident Manor works with several organisations, UK and international, to prevent or reduce the impact of workplace violence. This has been through undertaking TRVA, developing governance, undertaking investigations, and delivering formal training programmes. If you are unsure of how you and your organisation can address workplace violence why not contact us for professional advice and guidance.