Is it a Behaviour of Concern or is it Occupational Violence?   Or is it both?

A behaviour of concern has been defined by Emerson (1995) as:

Behaviour of such intensity, frequency and duration that the physical safety of the person or others is placed or is likely to be placed in serious jeopardy, or behaviour which is likely to seriously  limit use of, or result in the person being denied access to ordinary community facilities, services and experiences.

Occupational Violence may be defined as any incident where a worker or group of workers is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances arising out of, or in the course of their employment. Worksafe Victoria helps clarify client-initiated occupational violence as:

Client-initiated occupational violence involves a person in the care of an organisation or someone seeking a service.

The difficulty when considering whether an incident involving a person living with a disability does fit the category of occupational violence may lie in the interpretation of the intent or function behind the behaviour.

An absence of formed intent in the mind of the aggressor to assault a worker does not disqualify that act of aggression or violence from being classified as occupational violence.

Despite varying interpretations of the intent or function behind the behaviour, behaviours of concern that involve aggression or violence towards another individual where it is occurring in a workplace are also examples of occupational violence. Hence there are many situations where the one incident would involve both behaviours of concern and occupational violence.

After all, whether a worker is punched in the face by someone who did or did not intend to punch the worker in the face, the worker has still been struck in the face which is unacceptable. We must continuously improve the way we manage these risks.

In this context, a suitable immediate response on behalf of the worker to avoid being harmed will in large part depend on the mobility of the aggressor. For an aggressor with limited mobility, a worker may simply need to move a few metres away to be safe from further harm. If confronted by an aggressor with unrestricted mobility, a worker may need to take more pivotal action to remove themselves from harm’s way while causing no harm to the people they are supporting.

Once safe from further harm, the worker should consider the intent or function behind the behaviour when implementing positive behaviour support strategies in order to prevent a repeated incident.

Staff need to have the skills to effectively manage the risks of occupational violence and behaviours of concern, especially during the period before positive behaviour support strategies are fully effective.

Is your organisation accurately collecting and analysing incident data, and implementing effective risk management strategies based on its own experience while benchmarking industry standards?

Is there misunderstanding of behaviours of concern and occupational violence that is impacting the quality of the information upon which your organisation is making decisions about the risks of occupational violence?

Every organisation has the duty of care to take all reasonably practicable measures to protect all members of staff and others who come in to the workplace from foreseeable harm. Are you and your organisation meeting your duty of care?

Should you wish to discuss how best to manage these challenges, please do not hesitate to contact Holland Thomas & Associates.

Holland Thomas & Associates

Travis Hol­land
Man­ag­ing Direc­tor
Hol­land Thomas & Asso­ciates
Travis Holland email address