Overview / Introduction

What is workplace violence & aggression?

Work-related violence and aggression can be defined as any incident where staff are abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances related to their work, involving an explicit or implicit challenge to their safety, wellbeing or health.

An aggressive or violent act can be physical or non-physical. Physical examples can be spitting, use of force against a person; for example, pushing, hitting, punching a person or attacking a person with a weapon or object.  Non-physical can be verbal abuse, threats or threatening gestures towards the person.

As defined by EU-OSHA:

“The phrases 'work-related violence’ or ‘workplace violence’, are phrases used to refer to all kinds of violent incidents at work, including third-party violence and harassment (bullying, mobbing) at work. The phrase ‘third-party violence’ is used to refer to threats, physical violence, and psychological violence (e.g., verbal violence) by third parties such as customers, clients, or patients receiving goods or services”. 

In January 2023, Ireland ratified the International Labour Organizations (ILO) Violence and Harassment Convention which is the first international labour standard to address violence and harassment in the world of work. As a member state, Ireland are required to adopt an inclusive, integrated and gender-responsive approach to preventing and eliminating workplace violence and harassment. In January 2024, the ILO issued “Preventing and addressing violence and harassment in the world of work through occupational safety and health measures”.

Further resources:

The following publications are available for guidance and download in relation to preventing violence at work.

In September 2010 the European Social Partners signed guidelines to tackle third party violence and harassment at work. The guidelines were signed by the EU level social partners in the healthcare, education, local and regional government, commerce, and private security sectors.

In November 2013, the signatory parties adopted a follow-up report on the implementation of their guidelines in which they recommended that ‘a social partner agreement on preventing third-party violence could be a further step to a more stringent implementation of the guidelines if there is consensus between the social partners to start any negotiations’. On 17 December 2018, the guidelines were signed by the European social partners for the central government administration sector: the Trade Unions’ National and European Administration Delegation (TUNED) and European Public Administration Employers (EUPAE).

Frequently Asked Questions

What is workplace violence & aggression?

Work-related violence and aggression can be defined as any incident where staff are abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances related to their work, involving an explicit or implicit challenge to their safety, wellbeing or health.

How can I risk assess violence & aggression?

In order to reduce or prevent the risk, Violence and Aggression needs to be risk assessed with controls put in place The Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and the Safety Health and Welfare (General Application) Regulations 2007 require employers to ensure the safety health and welfare of their employees. This includes finding out if there is a problem and how serious it is by:

  • identifying the hazards
  • assessing the risks to health and safety from violence at work and
  • putting in place appropriate safeguards

Also, BeSMART.ie is free online tool that lets you generate your own workplace risk assessments and safety statement. It will guide you through the entire risk assessment process using simple language and easy-to-follow instructions. On completion you will have a workplace-specific safety statement that can be printed, downloaded and implemented.

Where do Violence and Aggression related incidents typically occur?

The vast majority of incidents involving violence and aggression occur in Public Administration and Defence. Education, retail settings and transport also experience frequent levels of violence and aggression.

Do I have to report incidents of violence and aggression? Who do I report to?

Accidents arising as a result of workplace violence and aggression when an employee is injured at work and cannot perform their normal work duties for three consecutive days after the accident, are required by legislation to be reported to the HSA.

As good practice, every employer should keep a record of all V&A related incidents experienced by employees.