How do you create a workplace that is safer from occupational violence / aggressive behaviours while enhancing wellbeing and delivering improved operational and financial performance?

We know staff will be faced with aggressive behaviours throughout their careers. Are your workers safe enough?

Building a positive workplace safety culture should be an integral part of every organisation’s ongoing safety and risk management strategy. Investment in staff safety can deliver significant benefits to the organisation that are both measurable and scalable.

From our experience training thousands of staff to safely manage aggressive behaviours, here are 7 areas that need to be discussed which can lead to immediate improvement in the safe management of aggressive behaviours for all involved.

Safely Manage Aggressive Behaviours - Using the Right Language

Using the Right Language

Firstly you need to clarify the language you will use in your organisation when discussing aggressive behaviours. Often all aggressive behaviours are bundled into one broad category. This makes it difficult to segment incident reporting data into meaningful and actionable categories. Click here for some ideas on defining aggressive behaviours.

And now the 7 safety conversations.

Safely Manage Aggressive Behaviours - 1. Know Your Problem

1. Know Your Problem

Understand the specific nature and impact of aggressive behaviours within your environment. Actively seek out the what, why, how and when of any incidents that are happening though be mindful of interchangeable terminology that is used when discussing aggressive behaviours.

Safely Manage Aggressive Behaviours - 2. Open Door Policy

2. Open Door Policy

From senior management down, build a culture of open discussion, analysis and resolution of problems including the safe management of aggressive behaviours.

To paraphrase General Colin Powell, “The day staff* stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”

* General Powell referred to soldiers.

Safely Manage Aggressive Behaviours - 3. Meaningful Culture of Staff Safety

3. Meaningful Culture of Staff Safety

Foster a meaningful safety culture where the safety and wellbeing of all involved takes precedence over daily to do lists.

How would you describe your safety message from the executive to management, from management to staff?

A: We get in there and get the job done.


B: Our safety is paramount.

What would your staff say?

What should it be?

Safely Manage Aggressive Behaviours - 4. Continuous Hazard Assessment

4. Continuous Hazard Assessment

Increase individual awareness of the space people are working in and the ever changing nature of the people they are working with. The earlier identification of potential situations provides more options to achieve safer outcomes.

Do you have any procedural drivers of aggression which could be removed from your workplace?

Safely Manage Aggressive Behaviours - 5. Empower Your Staff

5. Empower Your Staff

Your staff will be amongst the first responders for incidents. Provide your staff with the right skills (through effective training that achieves a level of competence and not just compliance) and safety tools to manage aggressive behaviours.

Then empower your staff to make good decisions about safety.

If you are not confident empowering your staff, then you should be asking if you have the right staff.

Safely Manage Aggressive Behaviours - 6. 60 Second Incident Reporting

6. 60 Second Incident Reporting

Institute 60 second incident reporting to capture the high frequency incidents that are currently not being reported. Routinely analyse the incident data to identify trends across staff and the people they support.

Then consider setting KPIs around incident reporting.

Please feel welcome to get in touch with Holland Thomas if you would like a copy of our example 60 second Incident Report Form.

Safely Manage Aggressive Behaviours - 7. Employee Assistance Program

7. Employee Assistance Program

Many of us will not seek help for a psychological injury, or even know where to start. Encourage staff to actually use your Employee Assistance Program early.

You might even consider internally promoting EAP success stories (with permission of course).

To safely manage aggressive behaviours, nurture a positive workplace culture of continuous safety improvement built on improved incident reporting, a consultative approach and contextualised solutions in order to achieve benefits beyond compliance.


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Travis Holland

Travis Holland
Managing Director
Holland Thomas
Travis Holland email address

Should you wish to discuss strategies to improve your staff’s safety in their work environment, please feel welcome to contact Holland Thomas.

Passionate about creating safer workplaces our goal is to enhance wellbeing for all concerned whilst also delivering improved operational and financial performance.

This blog draws on our years of experience delivering our M.A.B.™ Staff Safety Training (Contextualised Prevention and Management of Aggressive Behaviours) across Australia and the development of My Safety Buddy, our smartphone app and web portal based lone worker safety solution.

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