Violence and aggression overview

Information on the most common examples of violence and aggression

Common types of violence and aggression

As an employer, you have a duty to manage the risks related to violence and aggression at work.

Violence and aggression includes:

  • threats
  • physical attacks
  • antisocial behaviour
  • a lack of respect for others
  • verbal and emotional abuse
  • the intention to injure or harm

This can be inflicted on an individual by another individual or group. It could also include damage to property.

It could happen between colleagues or by superiors or members of the public, such as:

  • pupils
  • clients
  • patients

It can also include domestic situations outside of work that have an impact on the workplace.

Types of violence

These behaviours can include:

  • spitting
  • robbery
  • rude gestures
  • physical or sexual assault
  • written abuse, including use of social media, email and the internet
  • malicious damage to the property of staff, customer or the business

It can also include behaviours such as:

  • stalking
  • intimidation and bullying
  • verbal abuse, in person or over the telephone
  • harassment, including sexual and racial abuse
  • threatening behaviour, for example 'squaring up' without physical contact

Anybody could be at risk, especially if they work with the public. However, people that are most at risk are those that work in:

  • care
  • retail
  • education
  • positions of authority
  • deliveries and collections

Working practices can increase this risk. For example:

  • working alone
  • working after normal hours
  • working in the community
  • handling valuables or medication

Classes of violence or aggression

Criminal intent

The person involved has no legitimate relationship to the business or its employees. They are usually committing a crime that involves violence. These crimes can include:

  • robbery
  • terrorism
  • shoplifting
  • trespassing

Customer or service user, their family, friends or carers

The person involved has a legitimate relationship with the business. They become violent or abusive while being served by the business. This includes:

  • patients
  • students
  • inmates
  • customers
  • service users

It also includes any other group for which the business provides services. A large portion of customer or service user incidents occur in the healthcare industry.

Worker on worker

The person involved is an employee or past employee of the business who attacks or threatens other employees or past employees in the workplace.

Personal relationship

The person involved usually does not have a relationship with the business. However, they have a personal relationship with the intended victim. This includes victims of domestic violence being assaulted or threatened while at work.

Carry out a risk assessment

You have a duty to manage the risk to the safety and health of your employees and others. To be able to achieve this, you need to complete a risk assessment, to decide on methods to reduce the likelihood of violence and aggression in the workplace.

Find out more

Our publications on managing violence and aggression have tools and strategies which you can use in your organisation. There is also guidance specific to managing workplace violence in a retail setting.