1. Work-related violence risk assessment
The Department’s duty to maintain a safe working environment in schools is owed to all employees, including principals. The Victorian Government is committed to preventing and responding to work-related violence (WRV) across the public sector.
In schools, there are a wide range of potential scenarios involving behaviours that are violent, aggressive or otherwise pose a safety risk. These behaviours can have serious consequences for the health, safety and wellbeing of staff, students and other members of the school community.
The following information outlines the requirements and process for conducting WRV risk assessments. General information on WRV risk controls is provided in the following chapter.
Specific strategies and advice on managing WRV risks relating to student challenging behaviours and parent/carer behaviours are outlined at:
1.1 Identify hazards
The principal and/or their delegate, in consultation with health and safety representatives (HSR) and employees must enter 'work-related violence' in the ‘Hazard Description’ column of the school Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Risk Register .
The principal and/or their delegate, in consultation with HSRs and employees must complete a risk assessment if the risk level in the OHS Risk Register is rated ‘High’ or ‘Extreme’, and document the risk assessment using the Risk Assessment Template or equivalent.
Schools can seek assistance from the OHS Advisory Service, including regional OHS officers, in identifying WRV hazards. The Employee Health Safety and Wellbeing Division can provide additional support in identifying hazards where there are complex, significant and ongoing risks to employee safety from violent or aggressive behaviour.
Potential scenarios presenting an WRV risk in schools include:
- 2 or more students are physically fighting, and a member of school staff is injured when attempting to intervene
- a student displays challenging behaviours that may, in certain situations, escalate to hitting or punching staff. Students may also pinch or hit because they have not yet learnt how to communicate their needs in a prosocial way. This behaviour may not be intended to harm, but can still result in physical and/or psychological injury
- a parent or carer is upset about an incident involving their child and makes abusive or threatening calls and emails to school staff and education support staff
- parents, carers and other family members use abusive or threatening language on social media and in other online forums, such as e-petitions
- members of staff or of the school community physically assault, threaten or verbally abuse a staff member on school grounds.
1.2 Identify the contributing workplace factors
The principal and/or their delegate, in consultation with the HSR and employees, are to identify and record the contributing workplace factor(s) that alone, or in combination, may contribute to the WRV risk in the workplace. Contributing factors may occur at the level of the school, the Department, or the broader community.
Consider the following questions/statements to assist with identifying workplace hazards and contributing factors.
1.2.1 Effective systems
Consider how physical environments can be designed or adapted to reduce the risk of WRV.
- Are there appropriate entry and exit points for buildings/rooms?
- Is there appropriate security infrastructure in place?
- Are teaching spaces and playground areas assessed and fit for purpose?
- Are there objects or parts of infrastructure that could be used as a weapon and need to be removed?
Resourcing and workflow management
Are there appropriate staffing ratios/supervision arrangements in place?
Incident management systems and planning
Does the school’s emergency management plan include planning for when the school will access regional supports, or for when a WRV incident impacts on the ability of school staff to perform their duties?
Consider the strategies outlined in the procedure chapters
Risk controls – student challenging behaviours
Risk controls – parent/carer behaviours
1.2.2 Capability and culture
Organisational culture and school climate
Is there a strong culture of inclusion, respect and safety for staff, students and the broader school community?
Education and training
Do staff have the right training to understand, prevent and manage WRV related risks?
Consultation and information sharing
- Are staff proactively engaged in risk management planning, through HSRs or through other consultative forums such as health and safety committees?
- Have WRV risks been communicated to staff?
1.2.3 Supporting our people
- Are appropriate procedures in place to respond to and report incidents?
- Do staff have sufficient time to complete eduSafe Plus reporting and access supports?
- Can staff readily access support and advice from their manager and the Department?
- Are there targeted supports in place for staff who are affected by WRV?
- Have staff been provided with the contact details for the Employee Assistance Program (EAP)?
Reviewed 29 June 2022