Preventing aggression and potential violence occurs within an organisational context and is the responsibility of all staff. Organisations can support management and staff by:

  • Establishing and maintaining a non-violent culture in their workplace/s
  • Setting and maintaining appropriate standards of behaviour
  • Committing to an inclusive client-centred practice approach reflected by:
  1. A commitment to clients rights
  2. Encouraging client participation and enabling them to make a valuable contribution

Occupational health and safety and risk management
All organisations are legally bound to operate within an occupational health and safety framework.

Occupational aggression and violence pertains to:

  • ‘Threat’ - a statement or behaviour that causes a person to believe that they are in danger of being physically attacked, and may involve actual or implied threat to safety, health or wellbeing
  • Physical attack’ - a direct or indirect application of force by a person to the body of, or clothing or equipment worn by, another person, where that application creates a risk to health and safety

Managing aggression and preventing violence is integral to occupational health and safety and involves risk to the psychological and physical safety and wellbeing of employees, contractors, volunteers and visitors in the workplace. Consequently, organisations are required to develop risk management processes that represent the basic preventative philosophy of occupational health and safety legislation and regulation. Under the legislation and supporting guidelines, there are three steps that should be followed:

  • Hazard Identification – the process of identifying occupational violence hazards in the workplace that could cause harm to staff or others
  • Risk assessment – the process of assessing the risks associated with the hazard including the likelihood of injury or illness being caused by that hazard and identifying the factors that contribute to the risk
  • Risk control – the process of determining and implementing measures to eliminate or minimise workplace violence

For a list of risk control measures see the attached document from the Victorian Department of Human Services.

Duty of care and use of force
The Law of Negligence imposes upon staff and management a duty (burden) of care to clients, staff and the community. The ‘burden’ imposed is the requirement to act reasonably in all circumstances. Staff must acknowledge and demonstrate that they are accountable for their actions

When responding to an assaultive incident, staff members are expected to protect themselves from injury, but are limited to reasonable force. A reasonable amount of force is just enough force for effective protection of self and others, and no more than is absolutely necessary.

All efforts must be made by staff to protect themselves and others without use of force. This includes using verbal skills and being assertive. Where the protection of self and/or others requires some use of force, the following points are a guide to what might be considered ‘reasonable’:

  • When the behaviour constitutes threats only - no force permissible
  • When the behaviour constitutes assault - evasion and force permissible
  • When the behaviour constitutes a serious and continuing assault - restraint may be necessary
  • Use necessary and reasonable force that is not disproportionate to the force being applied to you

Organisational systems and policies
Organisational factors shape the way professional youth AOD practitioners and managers respond to aggression and potential violence. The effectiveness of organisations in providing such support depends on:

  • The degree to which risk management procedures are consistent, effective and adhered to by staff
  • How occupational health and safety is integrated into management systems and workplace practice
  • Adequate processes emergency procedures/response and defuse situation
  • How critical incidents are reported and reviewed
  • The availability of on-call back up and emergency response
  • Effective mechanisms case planning (including individualised management plans) and clinical review

There are also a range of workforce related factors that have an impact on how aggression and potential violence is managed within organisations, such as:

  • Adequate supervision and support for staff
  • Rostering for suitable experience and gender mix
  • Level of reliance on causal and part time staff
  • Degree to which induction is adequate and consistently applied
  • Availability of training to that enable staff to predict, prevent and manage aggression
  • The potential for staff respite
  • Immediate staff support and the availability of suitable post incident diffusing and formal debriefing
  • The availability of an employee assistance program