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Health and safety at work

Health and safety at work - what it means.

Violence at Work

The HSE define work-related violence as:

“Any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work”.

This can include verbal abuse or threats as well as physical attacks. Violence at work is a significant problem in a number of commercial businesses, including retail outlets, nightclubs, and betting shops.

There is often a risk to the safety of door supervisors and security staff when interacting with customers and members of the public, such as when challenging potential shoplifters.

An employer must carry out a risk assessment to determine whether or not there is likely to be an issue for their employees with violence at work, and to put in place appropriate safety measures, including appropriate instruction, training and supervision.

What is the law?

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (as amended)

What do I need to do?

Employers must assess the risk of workplace violence on their premises. The following stages will assist with this. Specific examples are given for licensed and retail premises.

1) Assessing the risks of work-related violence

Step 1: Identify the hazards

A hazard is something that can cause harm – in this case violence and aggression.

There are a number of ways you can gather this information.

  • Ask your staff and safety representatives about their experiences and concerns.
  • Look back at your accident and ill-health records.
  • Consult the information on HSE’s website, including the toolkit Managing violence in licensed and retail premises - HSE and related case studies.

Step 2: Who might be harmed and how?

Work out whether and how violence, or the fear of violence, could affect workers or other people in your workplace. Think about whether there are any special groups of workers who have different or additional risks, for example, lone workers or trainees.

Talk to people about situations where they feel threatened, as well as situations that might be risky, even if they do not cause concern at the moment. Some groups of staff may be more at risk of experiencing work-related violence. These include young workers, trainees, temporary workers, night/shift workers and lone workers. You may need to consider extra control measures for them.


Step 3: Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions

Work out what you are already doing, whether your control measures are working properly and if there is anything else you need to do. This will help you decide whether you are doing enough. It is also good practice to ask your staff for their ideas and feedback.

Decide whether you are doing enough to control the risk of violence:

  • Look at your existing controls to ensure they are working effectively and as
  • intended.
  • Consult your staff about their ideas.
  • Compare your approach to current good practice, by checking possible control measures in the HSE toolkit

Step 4: Record your findings and implement them

When you have decided what you need to do to keep your staff safe, work out how you will put these actions in place. Who will be responsible for taking the actions and when? How will you share this information with staff?

Step 5: Review your risk assessment and update if necessary

Employers should review your risk assessment regularly in case any of the risks have changed, or if there has been an incident. You also need to review the effectiveness of any control measures in place by asking staff and monitoring incidents. This will ensure the measures are being used properly and are effective.

2) Violence Policy

If your business is significantly affected by violence, then you should have a written violence policy which should form part of your overall health and safety policy arrangements.

Published: 26 January 2022

Last updated: 6 December 2022