How to make a claim if you are physically assaulted at work


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It’s fair to say that the last place anyone would expected to be assaulted is at work. It’s a sad fact of life that physical violence is present on our streets and in pubs, clubs and bars. However generally speaking our familiar work environments should provide a relative amount of safety away from the risk of being attacked in a physical sense by work colleagues or strangers, yet that isn’t always the case, and occasionally employees become involved in altercations and skirmishes with other parties whilst performing the duties of their employment.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, findings recorded in the annual Crime Survey for England and Wales and the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences and Regulations for the year 2014/15 shows that employees are still being exposed to threatening scenarios which develop in the workplace and which can, ultimately lead to physical assaults ensuing.

That said, the actual number of violent incidents at work has declined over the last decade, although the incident rate has remained stable over the last five years.

As it most recently stood, the perceived risk of being caught up in employment-related violence was as follows; the percentage likelihood of becoming a victim of actual (or threatened) violence at work is similar in 2014/15 to the last few years, with an estimated 1.2% of working adults the victims of one or more violent incidents at work.

That equates to a figure purported to be 285,000 adults of working age having experienced what was described as ‘work-related violence’ (including threats and physical assault) during 2014/15, whilst a total of 54% of the offenders cited in such cases were confirmed as strangers.

Meanwhile, amongst the 46% of incidents where the offender was known, the perpetrators were most likely to be clients or a member of the public known through work, as per the HSE’s official documenting of the subject matter.

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Bearing all the above in mind, isn’t my employer responsible for my health and safety in the work place?

In a word, yes, as your employer has an obligation under its all-encompassing duty of care provision; which is highlighted under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, with direct regards to ‘identify the nature and the extent of any risks and to devise measures which provide a safe workplace and a safe system of work’.

Therefore if an employee has been on the receiving end of what’s classed as an unnecessary and foreseeable risk of injury – or alternatively, in the event of your employer failing to protect you sufficiently which led to an assault or attack on your person as a result – then it’s perfectly reasonable (and legally anticipated) that the injured party might be in a position in which to hold their employer responsible, and legitimately pursue a claim for financial compensation. And that’s because at the end of the day EVERYONE should be able to fulfill the remits of their employment within a safe environment, and one without the threat of violence or injury hanging over them; and moreover it’s an employer’s responsibility to provide this.

What’s more, employers are not only responsible for protecting their staff from accidents at work, they must also take all reasonable precautions to protect you from physical harm, period.

What are the different categories of violence in workplace?

Experts in the specific field of risk assessment have divided the issue surrounding the ‘types of workplace violence’ into the three, broadly-defined categories; which are outlined as follows;

  • An act of unprovoked violence which is committed by a person with no legitimate connection to the workplace (for example a burglar)
  • An act of unprovoked violence committed by a client, patient, customer (or similar type of person receiving services from the business)
  • An act of unprovoked violence committed by someone who has a legitimate connection to the business (in this instance think along the lines of delivery people, employees, employees’ spouses/partners)

What are the most common forms of workplace violence?

  • CALLING people names (and other verbal abuse)
  • STARING at a person in a menacing manner
  • SHOUTING at a person in an intimidating fashion
  • VERBALLY threatening to injure/kill a person (or their friends and family)
  • PHYSICALLY interacting (be it jostling, pinching, scratching, punching or kicking) another person in an unwelcome fashion in a work environment
  • PULLING the hair of a work colleague
  • SPITTING at a fellow employee
  • ATTACKING a person with a weapon (including a knife or any other form of instrumentation that could be used as a weapon, e.g. a fire extinguisher)
  • SETTING a dog on an individual (or even issuing the threat of)
  • THREATENING an employee with demotion (or the sack) if they do not hit a certain target in their role (when they have no realistic chance of achieving them)
  • INSISTING that an employee/work colleague carries out an action which is against company regulations
  • THREATENING to remove an employee should they officially voice a complaint/air their grievances
  • WRITE graffiti about a victim (and fail to remove it properly when instructed)
  • MAKING comments of a sexual nature towards a person (or about a person) to other colleagues
  • SUBJECTING an employee/work colleague to unwanted touching
  • PRESSURING an employee/work colleague into going on a date
  • EXPOSING sexual organs or material purported to be offensive on this level
  • SOLICITING sex in return for promotion or hiring
  • ASSAULT of a sexual/indecent nature

What are the effects of workplace violence?

Aside from the obvious physical and psychological toll it would take on the victim of such practices, instances of workplace violence are also known to subsequently compromise efficiency and put further demands on a company’s resources.

Elsewhere the immediate legacy of workplace violence can be the destruction of staff morale, motivation and performance levels, not least because such situations can lead to those affected becoming ill and requesting time off work.

Other knock-on effects can be the provocation of fellow employees to leave a company based on how a firm deals with the aftermath of the incident. Beneath are just a few examples of how workplace violence can impinge on the victims, fellow employees and the business itself:

  • Death, injury, trauma, debilitation and incapacitation
  • Lowering of productivity levels
  • Damage to corporate image
  • Compensation pay-outs in wake of successful personal injury claims cases
  • Legal costs incurred by the above
  • Premature pension payments
  • Poor working relations thereafter
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Sudden resignations (and the cost associated with training replacements)
  • Problems recruiting and retaining a skilled, qualified workforce
  • Escalating insurance premiums (from a business perspective)

What actions can employers take to reduce the risk of violence at work?

Above and beyond the reliance on such safeguards as a security presence being visible at all times within the workplace and the installation of CCTV cameras, the creation of a safe environment starts at the very top of the company; courtesy of the imposing of clear policies which are given to ALL employees and which should be easily understood with no room for misinterpretation.

These policies should clearly state the accepted standard of behaviour expected by ALL staff members and what action the company will take if employees do not adhere to them. And harking back to what we laid out earlier, employers are obligated by law to ensure the safety and wellbeing of members of staff whilst at work and as such would find themselves contravening this should fail to prevent an assault or attack.

Examples of this scenario would comprise of the following counts:

  • Working alone or being understaffed – It’s widely accepted that in some work surrounds being left alone (or unsupervised) to undertake certain tasks are deemed dangerous. As an example of this, think about the role of prison officers, security guards and care workers (more especially those charged with working with patients prone to violent behaviour)
  • Ignoring past instances of violent behaviour – When an employer has previous knowledge of someone whom their employees interact with has a history of violent behaviour, they are obliged to take all necessary precautions to avoid exposing their staff to this violence in future. This is best illustrated when considering other members of staff, customers, clients or even patients. Likewise, should a workplace have been frequently targeted by thieves (in terms of break-ins or robberies) and the employer has failed to provide additional security, they may be held liable
  • Lack of training – There are various workplaces (think the police force as a point in question) whereby employees are potentially exposed to volatile situations which may lead to violence. If this is the case, all employees should be issued with PPE (personal protective equipment) and be given adequate training in its proper use.  Similarly, all panic alarms, radios or other means of calling for help should be in full working order

What is the protocol in the immediate aftermath of being assaulted at work?

The best advice is to adhere to the following procedures if and when you find yourself victim to a workplace assault, be it of whatever nature;

  • FIND a private area where you can sit with a friend (or leave the workplace and return home)
  • TAKE photos of any injuries received and the exact location where the assault took place
  • NOTE any witnesses to the assault
  • ATTEND either A&E or your local GP surgery, remembering to get a doctor’s report which lists injuries for future personal injury claim references
  • INFORM your employer ASAP, if the assault happens away from your work premises
  • FACILITATE the Employee Rescue Statement form to record details of the assault, any injury and the circumstances leading up to the assault ASAP
  • NOTIFY the local office of the Department of Work and Pension in the event of the resultant injury not being obviously superficial. This could be imperative if a claim for disablement benefit becomes appropriate, as any lasting consequences of an injury may only become evident later
  • REPORT the incident to the police. This is strongly urged should you wish to pursue a claim for personal injury compensation with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority

Who pays the claim?

Providing the attack occurred at your place of work – and was deemed foreseeable in as much as your employer had neglected to provide adequate means of protection for an employee – then this would be seen as employer liability; and therefore any pursuit of personal injury claims thereafter would be directed at a negligent employer much in the same way as a typical accident at work claim would.

How to make a claim for workplace violence

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