I love the variety of my role. As a safety consultant, my role goes far beyond advising on safety in the workplace regarding machinery and practises. Bullying, personal violence and how to protect workers in the workplace has become an increasing area of need in recent years. The ACT have recognised this need by introducing a new Personal Violence Bill, which aims to protect people against domestic violence and workplace violence (not including family violence). You can read the detailed new bill here: www.legislation.act.gov.au
Employer obligations regarding work-related violence
I had a lot of response from an earlier blog I wrote on work-related violence, particularly from employers who weren’t aware of the level of responsibility they have to their workers in this regard. It’s generally understood that the introduction of a clear policy and effective training of your workers meets your obligations, but we all realise that this won’t necessarily prevent actual or threatened violence in the workplace.
The move to develop this bill has created legislation actually designed to remove workplace violence and give victims a quick and effective option of seeking a protection order from the courts by creating defined offences which enforce such protection orders.
How will the Personal Violence Bill affect work-related violence?
It does this by clearly defining the behaviours which define personal violence, and how a workplace can respond to offenders, or those likely to offend. This can include prohibiting the respondent from entering the workplace or encouraging someone else to use violence on their behalf. The affected person or their parent/guardian/agent can apply for personal protection orders, and the aim is that this procedure under the Act should be as simple, quick and inexpensive as is consistent with achieving justice.
I applaud the ACT Government in taking this initiative. Domestic violence is at pandemic proportions in our country and they have introduced this bill in a move to stamp out domestic violence. In the government’s view, this stance on workplace violence goes way beyond employer obligations. In the bill’s explanatory statement (at the link above), the policy makers have stated that:
“The responsibility of governments to undertake measures to protect their citizens has been discussed in European human rights (law). This responsibility has been described as the ‘doctrine of positive obligations’ which encompasses the notion that governments not only have the responsibility to ensure that human rights be free from violation, but that governments are required to provide for the full enjoyment of rights.”
How to reduce violence in your workplace
As an employer, you can protect your workers and meet your company’s obligations by working towards reducing the risk of violence occurring in your workplace through the following steps:
- Actively promote positive workplaces that treat everyone with dignity and respect
- Introduce anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies into your workplace and train your staff accordingly
- Introduce policies for dealing with upset or angry customers and train your workers in these procedures
- Have clear guidelines for the queuing and management of customers.
I wait with interest to see if other states will follow suit.
Need further information?
If you like advice or support in reducing workplace violence or simply want to discuss or understand the new Personal Violence Bill, please contact me with any questions. I’d be glad to answer any questions or assist with the introduction of anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies in your workplace.