Avoiding attacks from clients, customers and patients

All employers are legally obliged to take every reasonably practicable step to protect employees from violent attacks in the workplace and they must comply with the terms of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. It goes without saying that employees should not be attacked or threatened in the workplace and yet it still happens too much. It should not be difficult for employers to keep their employees safe but unfortunately many choose not to engage with health and safety regulations.

The Health and Safety Executive has issued comprehensive guidelines on protecting employees from violent clients, customers or patients in the workplace and the majority of organisations have already found that they can control the risk of violent attack by following these guidelines. First of all, it is crucial to identify the hazard. In the case of violent attack, employers should speak to employees about their experiences in the workplace and also carry out research outside the organisation.

Having collected information employers should be able to identify who they believe are most at risk of attack, when they may be most vulnerable and who the attacker may be. Decisions can then be made about the steps which need to be taken in order to protect staff and whether any changes to current staff training or the layout of the workplace for example need to be made.

An anti-violence policy detailing all findings and the steps which need to be taken should be drawn up and inserted into the company’s health and safety document. A copy of this policy should be given to all members of staff. This document should be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure that the employees remain protected.

Employers should also put mechanisms in place to support employees with the psychological fallout of an attack from a client, customer or patient. This can help to reduce stress and anxiety and make it easier for them to do their job. Although the threat of attack can never be eradicated, steps can be taken to keep attacks to a minimum.

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