Sasa Jankovic looks at the risk of violence to pharmacy staff, and what you can do to minimise it

The latest Crime Survey for England and Wales (2012/13) showed an estimated 649,000 incidents of violence at work, with the resulting stress, depression and injuries leading to the loss of working days and the disruption of many lives. The main risk to workers is verbal abuse or physical assault, with strangers the offenders in 60 per cent of cases. However, there is a high level of under-reporting of incidents of violence and aggression within the health and social care sector, as many staff accept it as part of the job.

Pharmacy staff should be trained in customer service and conflict resolution

Who is at risk?

Anyone whose job brings them into contact with the public can be at risk, and those in retail and the caring professions – such as pharmacy – are more vulnerable. Often it is a combination of factors, so you need to be more vigilant if you work unsocial hours; work alone; handle money; work with violent people or have to cope with distressed or angry customers or their relatives. It is up to you and your employer to work together to reduce the risk of violence, and there are plenty of precautions your employer can take. For example:

  • Are staff properly trained in customer service and conflict resolution?
  • Are staff aware of customers with a history of violence so they can anticipate factors which might make violence more likely?
  • Are security measures up to date, such as video cameras or alarm systems, coded security locks on doors to staff-only areas, and wider counters to give staff more protection?
  • Are staffing levels maintained to avoid a ‘lone worker’ situation?
  • Can staff get home safely, and are employee parking areas well lit at night?
  • Are all staff aware of the company’s policy for dealing with and reporting violence?

If you are subjected to a physical attack or verbal abuse at work, however minor, report it to your manager immediately, preferably in writing. Any report should include details of victims, attackers and witnesses; the location, time and severity of the incident; as well as the final outcome, including how it affected the victim(s) and the business, which will also aid the police if their assistance is necessary. Richard Hampton, head of external engagement and services at NHS Protect, stresses that: “No NHS staff should be physically assaulted and we encourage staff who are victims of violence to press charges against assailants,” but do not wait for a violent incident to occur before tackling this issue.

If you don’t think your company is doing enough to protect staff, say so, and work with them and your colleagues to make things safer for everyone. More information Victim Support provides free help and information to victims of crime. Call the national support line on: 0808 1689 111 or visit: www.victimsupport.org.uk for more details.

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