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Attacking the problem of client-initiated violence

Media Release

06 August 2000

Occupational violence initiated by clients has become an issue with significant consequences for both victims and employers.

In response to this, the Australian Institute of Criminology is producing a series of publications, the first of which was released today.

Preventing Client-Initiated Violence: A Practical Handbook by Dr Claire Mayhew aims to help prevent violence against the high-risk group of social workers, nurses and police officers, as well as among others who work at the client interface.

"Occupational violence presents significant legal, economic and emotional problems", said Dr Adam Graycar, Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology.

"The level of risk varies from job to job within industry sectors. Workers most at risk are those providing care or services to people who are distressed, fearful, ill, incarcerated, or have a lot of anger, resentment, feelings of failure, or unreasonable expectations of what the service organisation can provide", Dr Graycar said.

"Those who work alone may be at heightened risk, particularly those who carry money or are involved in inspection or enforcement duties. In some instances" he said, "many workers are victimised by the same client over a period of time, and in other cases clients as well as workers are the victims of violence".

Verbal abuse and threats are the most common forms of client-initiated violence. Other behaviours include damaging property; scratching, pinching and hair pulling; groping or 'accidentally' touching; slapping; cigarette burns; splashing with infected blood; or physical assaults.

Preventing Client-Initiated Violence: A Practical Handbook includes discussions on:

  • the importance of CEO commitment to prevention of violence;
  • the ways risks can be reduced by improving work site design and administrative procedures;
  • the legal responsibilities of employers and managers to provide a safe and healthy work site and work processes under occupational health and safety legislation;
  • high-risk occupations where patterns of client-initiated violence and effective prevention strategies have been identified; and
  • detailed draft violence prevention policy and strategy documents and checklists for employers to adopt and adapt.