Occupational violence in the spotlight
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 127 No 3, 14 April 2022, page no. 16
The Department of Education defines occupational violence and aggression as any action, incident or behaviour that is considered unreasonable conduct and results in someone being threatened, harmed or injured by another person while working or as a direct result of their work.
Since 14 February, the department’s communications to regions and staff have focused on occupational violence and aggression prevention. The Organisational Safety and Wellbeing (OSW) team released department-wide communication to regions. Regions and their OSW teams are charged with ensuring that these important messages are actively communicated to all employees.
Prevent, Protect, Mitigate
The theme of Prevent, Protect, Mitigate aligns with the department’s work health and safety (WHS) objectives of increasing all employees' awareness of:
- how to recognise occupational violence to prevent incidents from occurring
- the steps to take to report occupational violence incidents to protect employee safety
- the actions to take to support employees affected by occupational violence in mitigating the impact.
The department is re-iterating that it is important that all staff understand that everyone has the right to be safe in schools and workplaces, and that your employer does not condone violence and aggression where a staff member is threatened, harmed or injured by another person in any form – including online abuse.
QTU members, through branches and area councils, have been seeking improvements to both the incident reporting system and the department’s investment in the prevention of occupational violence. The QTU provided two detailed responses to drafts of the department’s “Occupational violence and aggression prevention strategy 2021-2023” (https://education.qld.gov.au/initiativesstrategies/Documents/occupational-violence-aggression-prevention-strategy.pdf).
Some of the matters raised by the QTU have been addressed through the following initiatives, committed to in the strategy referenced above.
The OnePortal MyHR incident reporting module has been updated with new drop-down classification options in the injury/illness tab, so that incidents of occupational violence and aggression that cause an injury or illness to an employee can be specifically recorded in this tab. This will help with the proactive identification of both physical and psychosocial incidents which may arise from student, parent, carer and other person behaviour. By reporting these incidents of occupational violence and aggression, employees can ensure their workplace, regional office and the department is informed about the incident and can proactively take steps so that it does not re-occur. It is important to note that the reporting of incidents and near misses is a legal obligation. Never be deterred from formally reporting incidents of occupational violence.
The introduction of an occupational violence and aggression incident support and response process and accompanying guide, to assist principals, managers and supervisors support employees who have been affected by an incident. The guide is also intended to support principals and others to eliminate or minimise occupational violence and aggression risks, in line with the hierarchy of controls.
The creation of a protocol enabling employees affected by violence to receive immediate support and guidance through existing staff wellbeing and support programs, the Employee Assistance Program and the Manager Hotline Service.
Occupational violence and aggression are everyone’s business. It is important that all staff in schools understand the department’s position that violence in your workplaces is not acceptable. All staff can now access quality information and guidance on what to do and how to respond.
By Kevina O'Neill, Assistant Secretary - Services