Work-related violence

Work-related violence is any incident where a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in their workplace or in some connection to their work. The information on this page will help employers understand their duties in relation to work-related violence in the Northern Territory (NT).

All cases of physical assault, robbery, sexual assault and threats to harm should be reported immediately to NT Police – via telephone 131 444 or 000 in an emergency.

In the NT, it is mandatory for all persons over the age of 18 to report domestic and family violence to NT Police.

If you see it or suspect it - report it, it's the law.

For more information about family and domestic violence and reporting requirements in the Northern Territory, visit the NT Police Family Safety Framework webpage.

What is work-related violence?

Work-related violence covers a broad range of actions and behaviours that create a risk to health and safety, including:

  • any form of assault – biting, spitting, scratching, hitting, kicking, punching, shoving, tripping, grabbing, using a weapon or throwing objects
  • any form of indecent physical contact
  • intimidating behaviour that creates a fear of violence, such as stalking or threatening to harm whether conducted in person or using technology.

Work-related violence can have a significant short or long-term impact on a worker’s psychological and physical health, which can lead to significant economic and social costs for workers, their families, the organisation and the wider community.

Violence can occur in any occupation; however, data shows workers in some industries are more likely to experience workplace violence. These industries include:

  • health care and social assistance – doctors, nurses, paramedics and residential carers
  • public administration and safety – police officers, protective service officers, prison guards and welfare support workers
  • education and training – including teachers and teachers’ aides.

Young workers may also experience higher rates of violence in the form of initiation hazing.

Domestic and family violence can also become an issue in the workplace when the effects on an individual extend beyond the home and into the workplace. Domestic and family violence can occur directly in the workplace such as when both individuals work together or the person committing family violence attends or enters the other person’s workplace. It can also occur using work resources, such as work supplied vehicles, phones and email accounts being used to harass victims of violence or victims being contacted while at work.

Workplaces can play a significant role in preventing and responding to domestic and family violence by safety planning to provide a safe and supportive working environment for workers who disclose.

  • The Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2011 and Regulations require persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) to ensure workers and others are not exposed to risks to their health and safety, including from work-related violence.

    You must take a systematic approach to managing risk with the aim of eliminating the risk, or is this is not possible, minimising the risk as far as is reasonably practicable. One way to do this is to follow the risk management process in consultation with workers, health and safety representatives and any other relevant duty holders. This involves:

    • identifying hazards
    • assessing risks, if necessary
    • controlling risks
    • reviewing hazards and control measures to ensure they are working as planned

    Workers and others at the workplace also have a duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety, and not adversely affect the health and safety of themselves or others. This includes following any reasonable instruction given to comply with a health and safety duty.

  • Hazards can be identified by consulting with workers and other duty holders and observing how work is carried out to see what could go wrong.

    Work-related violence can arise from hazards that increase stress and conflict. This includes high job demands, low job control, lack of role clarity, environmental conditions and poor workplace relationships.

    Additional hazards for work-related include:

    • working alone, in isolation or in a remote area with the inability to call for assistance
    • working offsite or in the community
    • working in unpredictable environments
    • communicating face-to-face with customers
    • handling valuable or restricted items, for example cash, firearms or medicines
    • providing care to people who are distressed, confused, afraid, ill or affected by drugs and alcohol
    • service methods that cause or escalate frustration, resentment, misunderstanding or conflict; for example, setting unreasonable expectations of the services an organisation or workers can provide
    • enforcement activities such as the activities of police, prison officers or parking inspectors.
  • It may not be necessary to assess the risks of a hazard if you already know the risks associated it, and there are well-known and accepted ways to control it. If you do need to assess risk, you must seek input from your workers and others including relevant duty holders.

    In assessing the risks you should consider the following:

    • who could be exposed to hazards
    • when they are likely to be exposed to hazards
    • frequency and duration of exposure to hazards
    • the ways hazards interact to make new or greater risks
    • effectiveness of current control measures
    • the harm exposure could cause

    Potential harm could:

    • be physical or psychological
    • include minor or serious injury and illness, or death
    • be the result of a single incident, or build up over a longer period.
  • The best way to reduce the likelihood of work-related violence is to eliminate the risk of exposure to it. If that is not possible, you need to minimise the risk as far as reasonably practicable.

    Prevention and management of work-related violence requires an integrated organisational approach. For example, the risk of exposure to work-related violence can be affected by:

    • nature and location of work
    • number and types of clients
    • staffing levels and skills

    This means the control measures need to be tailored to your business or undertaking, and to your workers.

    Engaging your workers, and any other relevant duty holders, in developing controls will mean the measures are more likely to be effective and used.

    Examples of control measures include:

    • moving to an electronic payment system so that cash does not need to be held
    • improving processes to reduce wait times and eliminate double handling
    • ensuring promotional material and worker performance standards establish clear, achievable expectations
    • designing work areas so that others cannot easily access staff, for example with security doors and high counters, or parking that is not publicly accessible
    • sending workers out in pairs to isolated or remote areas with a reliable means of communication to request and obtain assistance if needed
    • protecting workers’ identity, for example using name tags with only a first name
    • providing supervision and support for workers, especially new and young workers
    • setting, modelling and enforcing acceptable behaviour standards for workers and others.
    • zero tolerance of sexual harassment

    You can also develop policies and procedures for workers to follow if work-related violence occurs, including:

    • de-escalating conflict
    • refusing to deal with aggressive or potentially violent people
    • protecting their own safety
    • contacts for effective assistance in an emergency
    • reporting a work-related violence incident or concern
    • process for dealing with a report of violence.

    You must train workers to use the equipment you provide, and apply the procedures you set up, so they know what to do in potentially violent situations.

  • Hazard identification should be repeated periodically to ensure the hazards are appropriately controlled, that the control measures are working as intended and have not introduced new hazards to the workplace. Hazard identification should be repeated following any violent incidents or complaints about work-related violence.

Related Forms and Resources

Preventing workplace violence
Codes of Practice
How to manage work health and safety risks
Managing the work environment and facilities
Work health and safety consultation, cooperation and coordination