Protecting School Staff from Violence and Aggression

Sam Preston 1 July 2024 3 min read
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Work-related violence and aggression can have devastating effects on individuals and organisations alike. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines work-related violence as:

'any incident in which a person is abused, threatened, or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work.'

This encompasses verbal abuse, threats, and physical attacks, highlighting the breadth of potential risks faced by workers in various industries.

Employers have a legal duty-of-care to protect their workers from work-related violence and aggression. This duty extends to all workers, including contractors, freelancers, and the self-employed. The responsibility of employers encompasses a range of actions aimed at preventing incidents, providing appropriate training, and supporting workers in the aftermath of violent encounters.

Employer Responsibilities

Employers play a crucial role in safeguarding their employees from work-related violence and aggression. They are tasked with:

Preventing Incidents
Employers should implement measures to identify potential hazards and mitigate risks of violence in the workplace. This may involve assessing the layout of the workplace, implementing security measures such as CCTV and alarm systems, and fostering a culture of respect and tolerance.
Providing Training
Training programs should equip workers with the knowledge and skills necessary to recognise warning signs, de-escalate confrontational situations, and respond effectively to incidents of violence. Training should be tailored to the specific needs of the workplace and regularly reviewed to ensure its effectiveness.
Reporting and Recording Incidents
Employers must establish procedures for reporting and recording incidents of violence and aggression. This helps to create an accurate picture of the risks and triggers for violence, enabling employers to refine their control measures and support affected workers.
Supporting Workers
In the aftermath of a violent incident, employers should provide appropriate support to affected workers. This may include offering counselling services, adjusting job roles or working conditions, and ensuring that colleagues are trained to provide support to their peers.

Worker Responsibilities

While employers bear primary responsibility for protecting workers from violence and aggression, employees also have a role to play in maintaining a safe working environment. Workers should:

Cooperate with Employers
Collaborate with employers and colleagues to fulfil legal duties and contribute to a culture of safety and respect in the workplace.
Take Care of Health and Safety
Prioritise personal health and safety, as well as that of others, by adhering to established protocols and using provided training to prevent incidents.
Report Incidents
Report any incidents of violence or aggression to employers promptly, allowing for appropriate support and corrective actions to be taken.

Examples of Preventive Measures

Effective prevention of work-related violence requires a multifaceted approach. Here are some examples of measures that employers can implement:

Education and Training
Ensure that all staff, including temporary workers and contractors, receive comprehensive training on recognising and managing aggressive behaviour. This includes understanding triggers for aggression and employing de-escalation techniques.
Individual Care Plans
In environments such as schools or healthcare settings, where specific individuals may be prone to aggressive behaviour, ensure that all staff are aware of individual care plans and risk assessments. This promotes a proactive approach to preventing incidents.
Improved Communication
Foster open communication channels between workers and management to identify potential risks and address concerns proactively. Encourage workers to report any incidents or near-misses promptly.
Continuous Evaluation
Regularly review and assess the effectiveness of preventive measures, adjusting strategies as needed to address emerging risks or changing circumstances.

So, how does the guidance impact staff in Schools?

Schools represent unique environments where the safety and well-being of both students and staff are of paramount importance. Recognising the distinctive challenges faced by educational institutions, specific guidance tailored to school staff is essential for effectively preventing and managing work-related violence and aggression.

Understanding Individual Needs

Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs)
Ensure that all staff members are familiar with EHCPs and individual risk assessments for students with special needs or behavioural challenges. This information should detail triggers for aggressive behaviour and outline strategies for prevention and intervention.
Communication with Colleagues
Encourage open communication among staff members to share insights and observations regarding student behaviour. Collaborative efforts can help identify potential triggers and develop proactive approaches to support students effectively.

Implementing Preventive Measures

Staff Training Programs
Provide comprehensive training programs for all school staff on recognising warning signs of escalating behaviour, de-escalation techniques, and protocols for responding to violent incidents. Training should be tailored to the school environment and regularly updated to reflect best practices.
Safety Protocols
Establish clear protocols for managing potentially volatile situations, including procedures for seeking assistance from colleagues or security personnel, and protocols for contacting emergency services if necessary.

Creating a Supportive Environment

Counselling and Support Services
Ensure that counselling and support services are readily available to staff members who may experience distress following a violent incident. Promote a culture of openness and encourage staff to seek support when needed.
Peer Support Networks
Foster peer support networks within the school community to provide emotional support and practical assistance to staff members affected by work-related violence and aggression. Peer support can help alleviate stress and promote resilience among staff members.

Promoting Positive Relationships

Building Trust
Foster positive relationships between staff and students based on trust, respect, and mutual understanding. Establishing a supportive and inclusive school culture can help prevent conflicts and reduce the likelihood of violent incidents.
Conflict Resolution Strategies
Equip staff members with conflict resolution strategies and interpersonal skills to effectively manage disputes and diffuse tensions in the school environment. Encourage open dialogue and mediation where appropriate.


By implementing these specialised guidance measures, schools can create safer and more supportive environments for staff members, enabling them to fulfil their roles effectively while prioritising their well-being and safety.

Sam Preston

SSS Learning Safeguarding Director

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