Violence at Work (UK)

Kinds of Violence at Work

Violence at work can manifest in a very wide variety of different forms.

It can occur in the form of physical assaults, verbal abuse, threats and intimidation.

It can also be just a look or one wrong touch.


Common kinds of workplace violence

Listed below are some examples of common kinds of workplace violence. (The list is by no means definitive.)

- Name calling, and verbal abuse

-Staring at a person in a menacing manner

- Shouting at a person in an intimidating way

- Verbally threatening to injure / kill a person - or their friends, family, or colleagues

- Threatening to infect a person with an infectious disease (e.g. Aids, Hepatitis, Meningitis)

- Gestures to the effect that harm is intended towards a person

- Physically jostling/ pushing, pinching, scratching, gouging, punching, or kicking a person

- Hair pulling

- Spitting

- An attack with a weapon (e.g. a knife, metal bar, chairs, fire extinguishers, samurai swords)

- Setting a dog on a person / threatening to

- Giving an employee a different job that doesn't suit their skills, then calling them incompetent and threatening to sack them if they don't pull their socks up

- Threatening an employee with a transfer to a position where they would be worse off (or, with the "bullet") if they don't achieve targets - when the employee has no realistic chance of achieving them

- Insisting that an employee complies with a demand to do something which is against the regulations and not in other peoples interests. (E.g. You never saw that OK)

- Threatening to get rid of an employee if they officially voice a complaint

- Graffitti about the victim - and failure to remove it promptly

- Comments made to a person (or to others about the person) with sexual overtones

- Subjecting the person to 'unwanted touching'

- Pressuring the person to 'go out on a date'

- Exhibiting sexual organs / material

- Soliciting sex in return for hiring or promotion

- Sexual/ indecent assault


Bullying is the most prevalent kind of workplace violence

Assaults on staff by members of the public may be a significant risk in certain occupations (Security Guards, Nurses, Social/ Care Workers, Ambulance Service Employees, Public Tansport Officials, Traffic Wardens and Taxi drivers are more likely to be attacked). But, most work related 'violence' takes the form of non physical, but psychologically damaging bullying - and the threat of incidents happening exists in every single workplace!

For more information on Bullying: Click Here


Some kinds of workplace violence are more easily identifiable than others

An armed robbery, or a direct attack on a member of staff by a member of the public will be immediately obvious as an act of violence. However, 'workplace violence' can also consist of a series of actions that on their own may seem innocuous, relatively minor and on their own fairly trivial but which cumulatively can build to cause serious harm to the victims.

For Example :


Some kinds of violence at work can be correlated to what happens in the workplace

The processes and functions of a workplaces can by their nature put employees at increased risk of abuse, threats, intimidation and serious injury from non employees.

For example:

  • An orchestrated campaign of threats, violence and intimidation against staff and the organisation conducted by extremists (e.g. Animal Liberation Front, anti abortion activists, et alia.)

  • Armed Robbery of cash/ bullion deposits and outlets handling / dispensing money or valuables - including medications and drugs (e.g. safety deposits, banks, building societies and post office staff, public transport fare collectors, shop assistants, GPs, chemists).

  • Employees providing care, advice and education (nurses, ambulance staff, social workers, teachers);

  • Officials who carry out inspection or enforcement duties (police, security guards, traffic wardens, ticket inspectors);

  • People working with mentally disturbed, or intoxicated, drugged or emotional people (mental health workers, bar staff, NHS security guards, prison officers)


Grudge motivated attacks by ex employees

The downturn in the global economy has hit many UK firms hard and a by product has been that more and more employees have had to be laid off work. Not all of the terminations have been handled as well as they might have been and, as a consequence, instances of ex employees returning to workplaces to cause malicious damage, and/ or physical injury to other employees have been escalating. (Being unprepared can mean mayhem!)


Some kinds of violence at work occur for reasons that are unconnected with the workplace

For example:

  • A deranged, delusional, armed individual entering a workplace and randomly attacking anyone and everyone they meet there.

  • A spillover of domestic violence (e.g. an employee's ex or current partner turning up at the workplace and causing trouble.)

  • An indiscriminate act of terrorism



For Risk Assessment and Incident Reporting purposes it can be helpful to divide 'Violence at Work' into three separate categories:

Type 1. Violence committed by a person with no legitimate relationship to the workplace (e.g. a robber, burglar)

Type 2. Violence committed by a client, patient, customer or similar type of person receiving services from the business

Type 3. Violence committed by someone who has some employment-related involvement with the workplace, (e.g. delivery people, employees, an employee's spouse/ partner etc.)