The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the UK national independent watchdog for work-related health and safety, defines Workplace Violence

‘Any incident in which a person is

  • abused
  • threatened 
  • physically assaulted

in circumstances relating to their work’

Workplace violence covers :

  • Verbal or written threats – any expression of intent to inflict harm;
  • Threatening behaviour – such as shaking fists, destroying property or throwing objects;
  • Harassment – any behaviour that demeans, embarrasses, humiliates, annoys, alarms or verbally abuses a person and that is known or would be expected to be unwelcome. This includes words, gestures, intimidation, bullying, or other inappropriate activities;
  • Verbal abuse – swearing, insults or condescending language; and
  • Physical attacks – punching,head butting,pushing ,slapping,nipping or kicking,throwing objects at,driving a vehicle towards.

Did you know 1 in 8 of UK workers face verbal abuse, threatening behaviour or physical assault whilst at work ?

Figures from the UK Health and Safety Executive show there were an estimated 694,000 incidents of Violence at work in 2017-18

In 2019 UNISON Scotland revealed 37,662 workers in Scottish Local authorities and Health boards had reported workplace assaults.

The Covid19 crisis in 2020 has seen an alarming increase in levels of abuse directed at shop workers.

USDAW, the union representing UK shop workers conducted a workplace violence survey of 4,928 retail staff  in 2020 which shows that since the Coronavirus outbreak:

  • 62% of UK shopworkers experienced verbal abuse on every shift
  • 33% received threats from customers
  • 4% were physically assaulted.

It is now more important for staff to learn personal safety awareness and de-escalation techniques allowing them to safely manage difficult and emotional situations in their places of work.

people working in High risk occupations like security, enforcement or healthcare, may require additional skills in physical intervention techniques which allows them to safely disengage from attackers or restrain people if necessary.

Who faces this type of risk?

The British Retail Crime Survey 2020 reveals retail workers face a spate of violence and abuse in the workplace.

It records an average of 424 violent or abusive incidents each day.

These are often the result of criminal activity planned and executed by organised criminal gangs, who use the proceeds to fund other illegal activities.

A variety of weapons including knives, are often used to threaten or injure staff as they go about their job.

Meanwhile 22% of health workers surveyed  had experienced violence at work, with one in eight teachers and support staff witnessing verbal and physical abuse.

Any worker who has to deal with the public has a good chance of facing someone who may be

  • Emotionally upset
  • Angry
  • Abusive
  • Aggressive
  • Violent

Especially at risk of abuse and attack are staff who work or interact with people :

  • With serious mental health problems
  • Breaking the law
  • Under the influence of alcohol, drugs or other substances
  • Suffering from a clinical condition which affects their behaviour
  • Being required to wear face coverings in shops or on public transport during Covid19

What you can learn to safely manage these types of people and situations?

At SALVAS we offer a variety of courses and training which always puts the client’s needs at the forefront.

All of our accredited training courses are designed in conjunction with fellow market leaders Maybo Ltd, who are our key training partner in the UK.

Our most popular training courses to ensure staff learn simple and easy skills to manage difficult situations are :

  • One day Personal safety, conflict management & de-escalation skills programme
  • Half day Personal safety, conflict management & de-escalation skills awareness workshop
  • Two day combined Personal safety, Conflict management, Assault avoidance,Disengagement breakaway (non- restrictive physical intervention ) skills course
  • Online e-learning modules covering Personal safety ,Conflict management and Lone working

We support the introduction of the Restraint Reduction Network and are the Scottish partner of Maybo who are a BILD ACT certified training provider.

For Care sector staff required to safely deal with conflict and challenging behaviours, we provide a range of Maybo Physical non – restrictive physical intervention programmes.


Man pointing finger at another man who has both his hands open signalling non-aggression

Organisations have a legal responsibility to understand the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) 1974 which places a legal duty on employers to ensure,

  • So far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety, and welfare of employees, and to ensure that employees and others are kept safe

It further states that under the Act employers have an

  • Obligation to ensure any potential risk of work-related violence is eliminated or controlled

If you have five or more employees you must have a written health and safety policy statement, setting out how you manage health and safety in your organisation’.