Aggression and Violence: It's Never OK image

WorkSafe Victoria’s new campaign highlights that all types of aggressive behaviour are not ‘just part of the job’.

WorkSafe Victoria has launched a hard hitting awareness raising campaign, highlighting the alarming incidence of violence and aggression towards healthcare workers while doing their job. The campaign plays out with 3 different scenarios, each one featuring a graphic portrayal of the kind of aggressive behaviours that care professionals face on an all too frequent basis.
The campaign not only features physically aggressive behaviour but also features the more frequently experienced behaviours at the lower end of the aggression spectrum. Though the latter may largely go unreported they can still have a physical, emotional and/or psychological impact on the recipient.
High levels of under reporting of incidents of aggression is one of the most frequent issues we see at Holland Thomas. A high profile campaign to raise awareness and to drive more open discussions about aggressive behaviour, endorsed by both WorkSafe and the Victorian Government, is a hugely positive move. This campaign has the potential to reduce levels of violence against all care professionals and to drive change in workplace culture regarding the reporting of incidents of aggression.
Unfortunately the campaign also highlights the current lack of reliable and robust data when it comes to accurately describing the problem of aggressive behaviours in the workplace. The key statistic used in the WorkSafe campaign “Up to 95% of our healthcare workers have experienced verbal or physical assault” sounds shocking but lacks veracity in statistical terms.
In his 2015 report “Occupational Violence against Healthcare Workers”, the Victorian Auditor- General found that there was significant under reporting of workplace violence against healthcare workers at both a state and national level and that what data is collected is of such a low quality as to provide little insight. Staff found the reporting systems in place to be cumbersome to use and were highly reluctant to report incidents due to the perception that aggression was simply part of the job or that management would not act on the report.

Why is under reporting an issue?


The earlier potential risks are identified the better the opportunity to maximise the safety and wellbeing of all involved.
The Auditor-General concluded that it was imperative to collect, analyse and report quality data for the purposes of continuous improvement. He concluded that the lack of robust data on the occurrence of violent incidents meant there was limited understanding of the effectiveness of controls and procedures for managing and reducing aggressive behaviour.
Under reporting has a huge impact on an organisations’ mitigation of risk and is a barrier to sharing progress and best practice.
In organisations where there is a culture of consistent and accurate incident reporting, proactive management of emerging challenges has led to lower compensation claims.

How can we encourage and improve incident reporting?

Driving greater awareness of the problem of workplace aggression and debunking the myth that it is just a part of the job are important messages coming out of the WorkSafe campaign. What can organisations do to encourage staff to recognise and report all incidences of aggressive behaviour?

The most significant barrier to reporting more frequent but less severe incidents involving aggressive behaviour is the 10-20 minutes it takes to complete typical incident report forms.

At Holland Thomas it is our experience that even verbal abuse is often part of a pattern of aggressive behaviour.
Exposure to non-physical aggression will more often than not go unreported due to the time taken to report or the perceived relatively low level of the aggression suffered. However consistent exposure has increasing potential to lead to compensation claims for psychological injuries.
To improve reporting of the less severe though often more frequent incidents such as verbal abuse and threatening behaviour, we encourage organisations to implement a 60 Second Incident Reporting procedure.
For tips on setting up a 60 Second Incident Report and getting the most out of it, click here.
The 60 Second Incident Report will provide valuable data on the frequency of aggressive behaviours at the lower end of the spectrum.
It will send a clear message to all staff that their safety and wellbeing is of the upmost importance to the organisation.
Realistic and effective incident reporting is a key component for evidence based strategies to safely manage aggressive behaviours in the workplace.

Image of Travis Holland presenting

Travis Hol­land
Man­ag­ing Direc­tor
Hol­land Thomas
Travis Holland email address

M.A.B. Staff Safety Training. Find out more.

Should you wish to discuss strategies to improve your staff’s safety in their work environment, please feel welcome to contact Holland Thomas.
Our goal at Holland Thomas is to create safer workplaces that 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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