Code of practice for the prevention and management of
occupational violence in disability services
Published by Disability Services Division
Victorian Government Department of Human Services
Melbourne Victoria Australia
? Copyright State of Victoria, Department of Human Services, 2007. This publication is copyright. No part may be reproduced by any process except in accordance
with the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968.
Authorised by the Victorian Government, 50 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne.
The purpose of the code is to provide practical guidance on 1.1 What is the purpose how to prevent and manage occupational violence in disability of the code? services.
The code provides overall guidance on management of occupational violence but does not replace specific policies and procedures on occupational violence. Where relevant these are referenced in the code.
The code primarily addresses occupational violence issues within disability accommodation, as this is the highest
exposure area (see Part 4). However much of the guidance is also relevant to areas such as outreach and client services
(see Part 5).
The code covers services managed by the Department of Human Services using directly employed staff of the department.
The code covers the matters agreed to in the Health Services Union of Australia (HSUA) Department of Human Services Disability Services
. Certified Agreement 2004, section 29.9: Occupational AssaultOccupational violence is defined, for the purpose of this Code, 1.2 What is as any event initiated by a person receiving services from occupational violence? the department or member of the public, in which staff are abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances arising out of or in the course of their employment.
This code reflects the underlying Occupational Health and 1.3 What is the code Safety (OHS) legislative duties of the respective parties in based on? the industry (for example employers, employees, contractors) and the ‘state of knowledge’ about managing occupational
violence in disability services.
The code has been produced in conjunction with the disability 1.4 How has the code services sector and their representative bodies to provide been developed? guidance on the management of occupational violence issues
in the sector.
This guidance material has been prepared using information drawn from the current practices of Victorian Department of Human Services disability service providers, and there has been extensive consultation and testing of the code to ensure
it meets the needs of the sector.
Disability service providers managed by the department can 1.5 How can the code use the guidance material to check occupational violence be used? prevention practices and, if necessary, bring practices up
The code also provides a basis for consulting with elected Health and Safety Representatives (HSR) and employees on occupational health and safety issues.
The OHS legislation and modern health and safety practice are based on identifying hazards, assessing risks and then controlling any risks. Figure 1 illustrates the general approach.
Figure 1: Approach to managing occupational violence
2. OHS legal requirements and occupational violenceThe Occupational Health and Safety Act (2004) sets out a number 2.1 Understanding of principles of health and safety. These principles can be the OHS law summarised as follows:
• People at work including employees and other persons should
be given the highest level of protection against risks to
their health and safety that is reasonably practicable in the circumstances.
• Those who control or manage matters that create risks are responsible for eliminating or reducing them.
• Employers should be proactive in managing OHS.
• There should be an exchange of OHS information and ideas to eliminate or reduce risks.
• Employee participation in OHS should be encouraged.
In this context the Act defines what responsibilities or duties different persons have. These duties are described below. In Part 3 these duties are discussed in the context of the management of occupational violence in disability services.
Under section 21 of the Act an employer has a broad duty or 2.2 Employer duties responsibility to provide and maintain, so far as is
reasonably practicable, a safe and healthy working environment for its employees.
The employer duty also extends to other persons including people receiving services from the employer, visitors, members of the public and contractors who may be engaged to undertake maintenance works in houses.
Duties of the employer in the disability services setting include consulting employees, assessing occupational violence risks, introducing risk reduction strategies and keeping records of incidents and assessments.
Employees have a duty to employers and to others to take 2.3 Employee duties reasonable care and not put themselves or others at risk by
their actions or omissions.
Under the Act employees have a duty to cooperate with the measures that an employer has developed to eliminate or reduce
risks. Consequently employees must be made aware of all of their employer’s policies and procedures in respect of occupational violence.
Duties of employees in the disability services setting include following behaviour management strategies, reporting
incidents and applying methods for defusing hazardous situations. Employees are expected to use the training and information provided to work with people receiving services in a way that reduces risks.
It is critical that support staff are aware of the impact of
their actions when working with people receiving services where there is potential for occupational violence.
Contractors may be required to undertake maintenance work at 2.4 Contractors disability accommodation facilities. To meet their duties
contractors should meet requirements of Contractors Checklists, follow the directions of a house supervisor or unit manager (or other senior person) and undertake work at a time and in a manner that is least disruptive to people receiving services.
Agencies providing direct care staff for disability services 2.5 Temp agencies have duties to ensure the health and safety of their employees.
These duties overlap with those of the host employer (Department of Human Services) but include assessing
occupational violence risks and matching placements with suitably qualified staff.
The duty for designers of buildings and structures is to ensure 2.6 Designers of that it is designed, so far as is reasonably practicable, to disability services be safe and without risk to people using it as a workplace
facilities for a purpose for which it was designed.
The relevant reference for disability accommodation is the Disability Services Accommodation Standards and Design Guidelines for the Provision of: 1.1 Shared Supported
Accommodation (General). The design guidelines are applicable to new properties and specifically address the need to reduce risk associated with matters such as occupational violence.
Families are expected to provide any relevant information 2.7 Family and visitors about their family member who is a resident that may reduce
the risk of occupational violence. This would typically involve providing any relevant information about their family member who is a resident that may improve quality of life and
reduce the risk of occupational violence.
In cases where family members and visitors by their conduct create risks the service provider may require certain standards to be met. This may include following defined protocols to reduce occupational violence risks when visiting disability accommodation facilities.
Section 32 of the Act states that all persons have a duty not to recklessly endanger any person at a workplace by their conduct.
The services provided by disability accommodation and related 2.8 Balancing OHS with activities are determined by the principles set out in other legal duties disability legislation.
These principles include the role of these services to provide opportunities for individual aspirations to be achieved and
for quality of life and independence to be maximised. In addition these principles cover respect for privacy and dignity and the right to participate in activities with some degree of risk.
The Act does not require disability service providers to sacrifice the interests of one party for the other. On the contrary providers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, ensure the safety of both support staff and people with a disability. Where possible, conflicts need to be resolved by strategies that do not disadvantage either party.
In the case of occupational violence the ability to understand and respect the person with a disability is the common pathway to both quality of life and
Where courts have had to consider the relationships between
staff and people with a disability there remains a strong emphasis on meeting OHS obligations.
In Appendix 1 an example of a recent OHS prosecution is summarised to illustrate the matters a court takes into account.
3. Planning to prevent occupational violencePlanning to prevent occupational violence is based on the 3.1 General systems and procedures used to provide a high quality service
to people with a disability. These systems and procedures include specific OHS components that are aimed at reducing
risks and protecting staff.
In this section the building blocks of a process to eliminate or minimise occupational violence risk is outlined. In the following sections specific risk management measures and responses to occupational violence are covered.
The general planning steps to reduce occupational violence risks are:
• incorporate OHS responsibilities in each management and service delivery role
• maintain and review consultative arrangements
• incorporate occupational violence assessments in all
assessment and review stages
• share and communicate information pertinent to occupational violence risks
• recruit staff with suitable skills and experience
• allocate and place staff to minimise risks
• provide relevant training to meet the needs of people with
a disability and reduce occupational violence.
The responsibilities for OHS are set out in the Department of Human 3.2 Assign OHS and Services Occupational Health and Safety Accountability Frameworkresponsibilities reinforced in the . Occupational Violence Prevention Policy
Lack of clarity about responsibilities can be a source of risk if matters are not acted upon quickly and appropriately.
The specific issues that have to be managed by people in their various roles are illustrated in Table 1.
Table 1: Responsibilities for occupational violence
Responsible party Typical OHS responsibilities Examples
Regional Disability Services Ensure occupational violence Ensure assessments include risk of Manager prevention and management systems occupational violence at all entry
are in place and review points
Advise on high risk issues Endorse or recommend actions in
response to serious incidents (for example Category 1 incidents
involving occupational violence)
Identify systemic problems in Review region level data on
preventing occupational violence occupational violence
Facilitate resolution of region Ensure regional consultation level occupational violence issues arrangements are in place
Disability Accommodation Services Address high risk occupational Manage resident and staff mix for Manager violence issues overall reduction of risk
Monitor risk controls for Apply protocols on restrictive
occupational violence interventions
Respond to risk assessments and Make decisions on serious
incident reports incidents issues (for example critical occupational violence
Resolve high risk situations Actively follow up effectiveness
unable to be managed at house or of strategies introduced to reduce
cluster level risks
Client Services Manager Manage assessment processes Incorporate an assessment of
occupational violence risk in assessments
Coordinate specialist input to the Oversee preparation of behaviour
needs of people receiving services management strategies Case manage individuals
Ensure risk information is understood across providers Manage emergency placements of
people with a disability Liaise with cluster managers on placements to reduce risk