The most recent Aged Care Workforce Study was conducted by the Department of Health in 2016 with the results released in mid-2017. One section of the survey focused on unusual job demands in aged care including dealing with aggressive service users. The findings have considerable implications with regards to the duty of care of employers and staff safety.

The Findings

In 2016, 28% of residential aged care facilities felt that working with aggressive service users was a normal expectation of the carer’s job with another 56% stating that it would be expected in exceptional circumstances. Worksafe Victoria launched a campaign that challenged the belief that outbursts of aggression and violence as a result of a person’s clinical condition are acceptable.

Against this backdrop the question must be asked,

“What changes are organisations making to support and upskill staff to better manage incidents of aggressive behaviours in order to improve their safety, the safety of the person presenting the aggressive behaviours, and the safety of bystanders?”

The Risks

There are clear duty of care implications for management of the more than 70% of aged care facilities who feel that aggression from service users is a foreseeable risk. The law now allows for management at all levels to be held personally accountable for breaches of duty of care. Are your managers taking appropriate steps to adequately prepare for, manage and resolve incidents that pose a foreseeable risk?

For further discussion of the implications of breaches of duty of care see our previous blog Balancing Staff Safety and Client Needs: Will it cost you $1.5m too?

Additional financial implications of incidents of aggressive behaviours range from short and long term sick leave, high staff turnover, incident resolution and workers compensation. Average workers compensation claims for incidents involving work-related violence are costing organisations around $40,000. Serious claims are costing organisations over $400,000. In exceptional circumstances some claims have exceeded $2,000,000 where a psychological injury has been sustained*. In contrast, upskilling staff to safely manage aggressive behaviours with training delivered by specialist facilitators might cost around $10,000 for 100 staff.

In addition to the human and financial toll on an organisation, one must also consider the reputational damage to the organisation’s brand and to the reputation of individual staff members at all levels. This can easily shift organisations out of the ‘supplier of choice’ and ‘employer of choice’ categories.

A recent Hesta study Transforming Aged Care April 2018 found that 23% of employees had intentions to move out of the industry in the next 5 years leaving a significant net workforce shortfall. What steps are organisations now taking to enhance employee wellbeing and job satisfaction in order to safeguard the number and quality of their staff?

What Can You Do?

Enhance personal safety leadership amongst your workforce to ensure your staff get home safe each and every day by:

  1. Making staff safety and the risk of aggressive behaviours a management priority;
  2. Incorporating the risk of aggressive behaviours in your organisation’s risk management strategy;
  3. Assessing your workforce’s training requirements and implementing an effective training program;
  4. Streamlining your incident reporting process and including 60 Second Incident Reporting to capture trends in higher frequency lower level incidents; and
  5. Committing to the safety of your staff and the people they support through ongoing refresher programs.


*Source 2016 Workers Compensation Claims QBE


Travis Holland is the Managing Director of Holland Thomas.

The team at Holland Thomas support organisations to manage the impact of aggressive behaviours towards their staff, the people they support, and the organisation itself.

This blog draws on our years of experience delivering our Managing Aggressive Behaviours (M.A.B™) staff safety training across Australia and our recent launch of My Safety Buddy, a smartphone app and web portal based lone worker safety solution.

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

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Travis Hol­land
Man­ag­ing Direc­tor
Hol­land Thomas
Travis Holland email address