Assessing risk of violence and aggression in the workplace

Information on how to identify the potential indicators of high-risk violent or aggressive behaviour in the workplace

Indicators of high-risk violent or aggressive behaviour

There is no test, instrument or method that can accurately predict violence. You might have heard about a certain 'profile' of a person who may become violent. However, many people who fit the 'profile' will never become violent, while individuals who do not fit it may do so. For this reason, profiling is not appropriate and may be discriminatory.

Identifying hazards

These are some aspects that you need to consider while identifying hazards during your risk assessment.

  • Work environments – some can increase the likelihood of physical or verbal assault from customers or service users.
  • The workplace – its access and exit points, general layout, public areas, waiting and interview rooms, reception areas or the street (if the activity is carried out in the community).
  • Staffing levels – their competence/experience.
  • Security – such as alarm systems, communication systems, regular testing and drills.
  • Response procedures – to emergency procedures and how employees are helped during and after an incident.

Risk factors

Often the risk involves a combination of factors rather than a single one. Below are some risk factors you may need to take into account.


The physical surroundings can affect the likelihood of violent incidents. Risk assessments should consider working:

  • in unoccupied buildings
  • alone or away from other employees
  • at isolated properties/in isolation
  • in other people's homes
  • in a workplace that is badly lit or has poor security arrangements
  • in multi-occupied premises
  • on another employer's premises
  • in certain geographical areas or trouble spots


Interacting with people can sometimes pose additional risks. Risk assessments should consider:

  • dealing with customers with unrealistic expectations
  • providing care, advice or information
  • working with service users or customers by telephone or email
  • working with service users or customers who have taken alcohol or drugs
  • working with people who have feelings of anger, resentment, frustration or failure – this could be both from outside and within the organisation


The nature of the work and the circumstances in which it is carried out can influence the chances of violent incidents. You should consider factors like:

  • driving at the end of the day, in the rush hour or after pub closing hours
  • working late in the evening or early in the morning or unsocial hours
  • dealing with complaints
  • having the power to act against the public, such as inspecting premises and enforcing legislation or controlling entry
  • working with crowds
  • working in emergency services
  • coping with angry and distressed service users or relatives
  • working with service users with special needs or with mentally ill, confused or potentially violent people


Valuable tools or expensive gear may increase the likelihood of violence so it's important to take into account:

  • carrying hi-tech or expensive equipment
  • handling money or valuables
  • cashing up or closing premises