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Violence in the workplace

Last updated July 2023

This chapter explains the health and safety risks of exposure to work-related violence, and how to manage these risks to meet your health and safety obligations.
Definition: Work-Related Violence

Work-related violence is any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances arising out of, or in the course of, their work.

This definition covers a broad range of actions and behaviours that can create a risk to workers’ psychological and physical health and safety, including:

  • verbal threats;
  • sexual assault;
  • threatening with a weapon;
  • throwing objects;
  • pushing, shoving and hitting; and
  • spitting and biting.

Exposure to work-related violence includes being the victim of, or witnessing:

  • assault by a person or persons who may or may not be work colleagues, e.g. a visitor to your workplace; or
  • bank robberies, hold-ups and other violent events at work.
Important: Work-related violence has been increasing in Australia. This was particularly notable in customer-facing industries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Safe Work Australia first reported on the significant increase in workplace violence in its 2015 reports, Work-related mental disorders profile and Bullying and harassment in Australian workplaces: Results from the Australian Workplace Barometer 2014/15.