Biz Extra

Published: April 10, 2022 | Updated: April 11, 2022

Workplace aggression, violence & harassment: It’s time to review matters says Simon Cassin

By Andrew Diprose, editor

Following the UK government ratification of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Violence and Harassment Convention, now is a great time to consider/reconsider the way your organisation approaches workplace aggression, violence and harassment, writes Simon Cassin.

When we think of health and safety, issues such as major accidents often come to mind.

So, it may surprise you to know that less obvious issues including work-related stress and workplace aggression and violence affect hundreds of thousands of workers each year in the UK.

The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) annual statistics for 2019/20 estimates that there were 688,000 incidents of violence at work during 2019/20 (The Crime Survey for England and Wales).

But what do we mean when we say workplace violence?

The HSE define workplace aggression and violence as ‘any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work’.

The harmful effects of workplace violence can be physical and/or psychological and some cases result in RIDDOR (2013) reportable incidents with the most common effects being psychological distress and severe bruising.

A recent survey carried out by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) of 3,500 retail workers has revealed the seriousness of the issue:

  • 90% have experienced verbal abuse.
  • 64% were threatened by a customer.
  • 12% were assaulted.
  • 61% said they were not confident that reporting abuse, threats and violence will make a difference.

Recently Ouch has been delivering ‘conflict management’ training to organisations from a variety of industries.

As we know organisations have a duty to risk assess hazardous workplace activities and workplace aggression and violence is no exception.

It is important to recognise that work-related aggression and violence can be both internal and external to the organisation.

Feedback from one of our recent courses included:

  • ‘Very interesting, made me think about when I have been in a conflict situation before and not realised and have been passive. Now I have a better idea of how to recognise conflict and what to do’ (April 5, 2022).

One of the common factors that reduce our ability to appropriately consider the problem is acceptance of the presence of aggression and harassment.

I commonly hear people say that I have to accept it as ‘it’s just part of the job’.

Acceptance and/or failure to report issues results in a false representation of a person’s work experience, and because of this it is vital that we develop strategies that protect our teams from foreseeable risks.

Good practice typically involves four main areas.

1) Confirm whether there is a problem in your workplace or activities

2) Decide the best way to approach the issues

3) Put your plan into action

4) Review controls (see what is or is not working).

Anyone who would like to learn more about the best ways to approach workplace aggression and violence should firstly look at the HSE guidance here.

If having looked at the guidance you feel you require more help and possibly training, please get in touch with one of the Ouch team.

Conflict Resolution and Personal Safety (


Simon Cassin

Ouch Training Team

01202 880999



Health and Safety Executive (n.d.) ‘Violence at work, 2019/20’.

Health and Safety Executive (2006) ‘Violence at work: an employer’s guide’. Available here.

Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (2022) ‘Abuse, threats and violence against shopworkers remain high, confidence in reporting incidents is low – Usdaw annual survey results published’ (Online). Available here.