How to protect the safety of your staff in the workplace
The Health and Safety Executive defines violence as any incident in which an employee is “abused, threatened or assaulted by a member of the public in circumstances arising out of the course of his or her employment”.
Victims may suffer physical injuries as well as psychological trauma and can need time off to recover, proving costly to their employer. Then there is the cost to the NHS (estimated by the National Audit Office at £173m per year) and the benefits system.
With staff from one in every 15 pharmacies surveyed suffering violence, and half of all respondents recalling at least two incidents where they suffered violence or the threat of violence or abuse.
Who is at risk?
Anyone whose job brings them into contact with the public can be at risk of violence, and those in frontline health professions such as pharmacy are likely to be more vulnerable.Employers and staff have to work together to reduce the risk of violence, which often occurs due to a combination of factors such as working unsocial hours, working alone, handling money, or coping with distressed or angry customers.
Making the workplace safer improves morale and reduces staff turnover and absenteeism. In addition, employers have a duty of care under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to ensure a safe workplace for all staff, which includes assessing (see Panel below) and preventing violence.
• Are staff trained in good customer service and conflict resolution?
• Are staff confident? (an atmosphere of fear can increase the likelihood of violence)
• Are staff aware of customers with a history of violence?
• Are security measures up to date? (eg, video cameras or alarm systems, coded security locks on the doors, wider counters)
• Can lone worker situations be avoided?
• Do staff know how to report violence?
Things to consider when undertaking a risk assessment
By law all employers must carry out a workplace risk assessment. Many violent incidents can be predicted, and a risk assessment helps to identify them. Conflict management training consultants Maybo advise considering the following three stages:
Awareness Are staff aware of situations they might face and customers they may encounter?
Prevention What actions can be taken to prevent conflict arising or to reduce the frequency and impact of incidents? How can staff prevent conflict escalating into violence? (This typically involves the use of interpersonal skills, such as conflict resolution training.)
Disengagement Do staff know how to disengage themselves from conflict and how to report and record any events?
Conflict resolution training gives staff the skills to spot the signs of violence before it happens.
If staff have to work alone, personal alarms and panic buttons can help ensure their safety.
Employees also have responsibility for their own wellbeing and that of their colleagues. The aim in any difficult situation should always be to diffuse, rather than exacerbate, an incident, but the law does allow people to take any reasonable action to defend ourselves and our property using reasonable force.
In the philippines, may incidence ba ng mga ganito in your workplace? Post your experiences here!