The reporting of work-related violence, including abuse, is critical in tackling the issue at source. Without a strong and well-used reporting system, employers cannot respond to incidents or identify potential hotspots and trends.
There are a number of features of reporting systems that Health and Safety Representatives should seek to negotiate.
There must be a clear definition of what work-related violence is. This must go beyond simply physical assaults to include threatening language and verbal abuse. Verbal abuse, as well as the harm it may do in its own right, may develop into physical abuse if it is not challenged.
To encourage reporting, there should be an agreed reporting form. This should be kept as short as possible, to encourage those affected by violence to complete the reporting process. One approach which works well is to have a single page report capturing key details, with extra sheets provided to capture detail where this is needed in more serious incidents.
The reporting form should be written in plain and straightforward language, which will direct the person completing it to provide factual evidence. The critical elements for reporting are the incident time and location; a description of assailant; and a description of any injuries suffered.
Translated forms should be available for all workers for whom English is not their primary language. If this is not possible, efforts should be made to provide interpretation to allow a report to be made. All workers should be briefed on the expectation to report violent incidents, particularly where workers may not read or write English as their primary language.
Crucially, the worker involved must be given the necessary time to complete the report form in full, as soon as possible after the incident. This will ensure that the incident details are fresh in the mind, and allows for the report to be actioned as quickly as possible after the incident has occurred. Employers should not insist on employees waiting until breaks to complete the forms.
Whilst reporting can be done electronically through smartphones, tablets or other devices, a copy must be provided to the worker upon completion. This should be a hard copy provided at the time that the report is submitted or a soft copy emailed to the employees preferred email address.
The report form should also give details on how feedback will be provided to the affected worker, along with the timescale for action. It is important that staff see action being taken as this will encourage more staff to report similar incidents in the future.
A draft of what a report form should contain can be found here. It is intended to be used by unions in negotiations with employers. Once agreed, the employer should ensure that it is made widely available and all staff notified about the policy and encouraged to complete and return the form after any incidents.