Occupational violence: it’s a work health and safety (WHS) issue
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 126 No 3, 9 April 2021, page no.15
Working with school leaders, Union Reps and teachers, the QTU is spotlighting occupational violence as a WHS issue.
The Department’s Occupational Violence Prevention procedure (23/10/18) states: “The department has the lowest appetite for risks associated with workplace health and safety of staff and the community.” The legislation underpinning the procedure is the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) and associated regulations. The central office contact is the Organisational Safety and Wellbeing Unit (WHS). Clearly occupational violence is a WHS matter.
Some members already have the QTU’s handy pocket guides for employees and supervisors tucked into folders or phone cases. Emblazoned on them is the catchcry “Recognise, Report, Respond”.
Before reporting, workers in schools need to be able to spot occupational violence. According to the department’s procedure, occupational violence is: “any action, incident or behaviour that departs from reasonable conduct in which a person is threatened, harmed, injured by another person in the course of, or as a direct result of his or her work.”
Examples include physical or verbal intimidation and threatening behaviour; spitting, biting, hitting, kicking and punching; malicious damage to an individual’s property; gendered violence and sexual harassment; racial violence; and online/virtual harassment.
Once an event is recognised, report it. If you are told that what you’ve experienced isn’t occupational violence, contact the QTU for assistance.
All instances of occupational violence must be reported through the MyHR WHS portal in OnePortal as soon as possible. The report can only be lodged onsite through the DoE intranet. If the affected staff member is unable to complete the report at school, another person can complete the report for them.
The QTU has advocated for an “occupational violence” tab in the MyHR WHS module. The department has not implemented this. Occupational violence incidents are currently reported under “security threats”. If student behaviour or parent contact is also involved, complete a separate report in OneSchool.
If a criminal offence has occurred, reports may be made directly to the police. An employee has the right to report any assault to the police. For more information on this, please contact the QTU.
When reporting an incident’s details, use clear, concise and non-emotive language. Include injury details. Injuries may be physical and/or psychological. The MyHR WHS module will require you to classify the severity of any injury based on treatment required. If treatment was not required, it can still be recorded as an incident with no injury or illness or a near miss. Sometimes the impact of an incident comes days later.
Why is it necessary?
Firstly, it is the law. Secondly, it is departmental policy. Reporting it as a WHS incident triggers a formal WHS response that is recorded and actioned. Data from the department is reported to government.
The correct reporting, recording and investigating of occupational violence incidents provides both the Department of Education and the state government with valuable information and the capacity to monitor hazard trends. Appropriate reporting can result in more resourcing to address the management of hazards that are being consistently identified.
The department instructs principals/supervisors that “where incidents occur, ensure early intervention and check immediately on the welfare of the those involved.” The first response should be made with compassion and care. It is also important to check for delayed responses to the incident hours/days/weeks later.
All instances of occupational violence should be followed up with a risk management assessment.
- What is the hazard?
- What is the risk to health and safety?
- How do we minimise/eliminate the risk to health and safety?
- How do we monitor and review?
Where the WHS hazard occurs because of the actions of another person (human agency) and that person is a student, the behaviour risk assessment tool should be used.
If you and others at your school are not familiar with how to report WHS incidents on OnePortal MyHR, use a staff meeting to request that training be provided. Appropriately reporting incidents, as expected by your employer, sends a clear message that occupational violence is not part of the role of workers in our schools. It is simply not okay.