Jason Towse, Managing Director, people services, Mitie’s total security management business discusses workplace violence. Jason writes:
“Each year in the UK, an average of 323,000 workers experience work-related violence including threats and physical assault against them. This shocking figure represents 1.6% of the total UK workforce and has done so for the last four years. This is not pretty reading, especially when there have been 649,000 reported incidents, suggesting that some workers are the target of more than one incident.
“Employees at most risk work are within the protective services and the healthcare sectors, with recorded incident rates remaining high over the last ten years of the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW).
“Through our contracts in these highly affected sectors, I’ve seen an increase in reported violence and in near miss reporting. As such, the current strategy is to mitigate the cause of the increase rather than dealing with the impact. My focus will instead be around behaviours leading to violence rather than traditional control, restraint and physical intevention techniques.
“Clearly, violence in the workplace is a persistent issue that should concern us all. But you may not be surprised to hear that whilst speaking to a healthcare worker recently, violence in their workplace is seen as part of their job. This to me, and I am sure many other people, is a dangerous acceptance.
“The impact of workplace violence is felt by all. It can manifest in the loss of productivity, absenteeism, deterioration in work morale, and suffering of the company’s reputation amongst other things. To reduce violence and create safer working environments; employers, clients, and employees must have a collaborative prevention strategy.
“The constant review of data and statistics are key drivers preventing workplace violence. The focus should be on the behaviours of the perpetrator. To do this, businesses must develop guidelines for controls, working practices, training, and policies that will assist in mitigating the violence and give employees the tools to diffuse a situation. How this is recorded is vital so that successful management tools can be used based on the individual case studies.
“Good prevention programmes are based on the premise that people don’t just typically snap and become violent. Rather, violence occurs on a continuum, often beginning with unsettled and irritable behaviour and becoming increasingly threatening to the point of violence. It is important to read the warning signs, and regular training and coaching is a way of educating us to do this.
“Our challenge is to know which changes in behaviour and increased levels of aggression are worth noting. Training our employees to identify the warning signs that indicate when someone’s behaviour could be progressing toward violence is our goal.
“Focusing on the main contributors to the statistics – protective services and the heathcare sectors – we must be mindful of the continued government outsourcing strategy. This approach faces very real issues of affordability, reduced police availability, and the documented flat line of violent incidents – all of which can contribute to violence if not addressed or countered appropriately.
“Through Mitie’s contracts in these highly affected sectors I see an increase in reported violence and in near miss reporting. Using the strategy of mitigating the cause of antisocial behaviour, rather than dealing with the impact, my focus will be around behaviours. Whilst employees should consider the traditional techniques of control and restraint, there is a lot more long term value in training in preventative measures.”
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