Work related aggression or violence is defined as any incident where workers are threatened, abused, or assaulted at work. This can come in the form of either physical and/or verbal attacks. Aggressive people can be present in all workplaces and the reasons for their aggression can originate from stress at home, drugs, mental health problems, or a number of other factors. To manage the risks of your workplace proper procedures and policies should be implemented. Employees should be trained and be made aware of what options they have should an incident occur.

Aggressive People

There are two main sources of aggressive people in the workplace, External violence and Service-related violence.

External Violence:

External violence is usually associated with aggressive or violent people that are external to the organisation where the incident occurred. Common acts of external violence are robberies or assaults and often occur in retail, hospitals, cash handling, Emergency Services and Government workers.

Examples of external violence are:

  • Retail staff being abused and threatened regarding a customer’s thoughts on a product or service
  • Cash Handling services being held up and threatened by Armed robbers
  • Government workers being threatened, abused, or assaulted by a disgruntled individual

Service-related violence

Service-related violence is associated with aggressive or violent people that are interacting with clients, customers, patients, and prisoners. Service-related aggression is common in retail, hospitality, hospital and health care workers, Government and council workers, and Emergency Services.

  • Hospital workers trying to assist a violent patient affected by drugs
  • Paramedics being assaulted whilst dealing with drunk and/or drug affected individuals
  • Youth Worker being assaulted by an irate youth.

Growing Problem

Hospitals, health workers, emergency services, and council workers are dealing with aggressive people in their workplace on an increasingly regular basis. Hospitals and other health care workers in particular have made use of training and implemented policies and procedures to help cope with the amount of violence being experienced. Hospitals around the country have increased their security and staff awareness with potentially aggressive patients. The additional costs for security, advanced reporting systems, and human resources are growing and without the implementation of correct training, policies and procedures, will continue to do so.

Prevention and Management

Under the Work Health and Safety Act and Work Health and Safety Regulations a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) has a duty of care and is responsible for ensuring the Health and Safety of workers and others at a workplace. Managing the Risks of work-related violence is a planned process which includes training staff on how to identify and assess risks, controlling risks, implementing control measures and procedures.


Training, including that provided by RMTO, should be part of an overall approach for managing the risk of dealing with aggressive people. Training should assist in developing appropriate policies and procedures, learning signs of aggression, increasing awareness, improving communication skills, and implementing techniques on how to manage the situation safely.

If you want to learn more about Dealing with Aggressive People and other Work Health and Safety courses then have a look at the RMTO Courses



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