For those who manage or are employed in licensed premises such as pubs, bars, nightclubs and retail premises, alcohol induced violence is a big problem. Violence, both physical and verbal, poses serious health risks to both for immediate victims of attacks and for their colleagues. It is also damaging to the business often resulting in high levels of sickness absence and loss of staff.
Work related violence is defined as:
"Any incident in which a person is abused threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work".
This can include verbal abuse or threats as well as physical attacks.
Health and safety law applies to any risks associated with work as well as risks from violence. The main pieces of relevant legislation include:
How to report an incident
Employers, the self-employed and those in control of premises have a legal obligation to report specified workplace incidents.
To find out more and how to report an incident, go to our Health and safety at work - accident reporting webpage.
Provision of first aid
If an injury is caused arrangements must be in place to ensure the employee receive immediate first aid attention. Information about these requirements are available on our First aid at work webpage.
Key risks of violence in licensed premises
- Threats and abuse – from customers waiting to get into the premises.
- Assaults – staff may have to intervene in fights, or remove troublemakers.
- Robbery – as a result of staff handling large amounts of money.
- Sexual harassment.
Ways of reducing the risk of violence at licensed premises
Training and information
- Training staff to enforce strict control over customers entering the premises:
- admission limited to those who are sober and not under the influence of drugs;
- people are searched on admission, including use of a metal detector;
- licensed opening times are strictly enforced.
- Staff are trained to be non-provocative, and to let the stewards/door staff handle difficult customers.
- Stewards are trained in customer service and how to remove or restrain with minimal force.
- Nightly briefings for stewards to exchange information on troublemakers and those banned from the premises.
- Not serving customers who are drunk
- The premises publicises its rules about immediate removal for fighting, causing annoyance, being drunk or found in possession of drugs.
- Decanting drinks from bottles into glasses and retaining the bottles.
- The use of polycarbonate (hard plastic) reusable drinking vessels as an alternative to glass.
- A raised cash desk to keep money out of sight.
- Low lighting used to provide intimacy but allow sufficient visibility.
- Emergency back-up lighting and tamper-proof switches installed.
- Some areas of the premises are kept closed until the number of customers requires more supervised space.
- Visible CCTV cameras.
- Sufficient number of staff available to serve and control customers.
- Empty glasses are collected promptly so they cannot be used as weapons.
- The use of uniformed stewards who keep in contact visually and by radio.
Glass drinking vessels and bottles are the main cause of injury as a result of late night drunken violence. The numbers of violent night time injuries can be reduced with the introduction of plastic (polycarbonate) glasses and bottles, which cannot be used as weapons.
Both licensee and patrons have often met the use of toughened plastic with a lack of enthusiasm. However replacing glass with toughened plastic during peak business hours / use in outside drinking areas will reduce the numbers of glass related injuries.
Facts and figures
- Verbal abuse is a daily event in more than one third of stores. It is most commonly observed when young people are refused alcohol. Other potential triggers include, refusal of a refund without proof of purchase, checkout queues and stock shortages.
- On average at least one shop worker is being attacked every hour of the working day (this figure does not refer only to licensed premises).
- Not surprisingly the daily onslaught of verbal abuse and the fear of violence is taking its toll on business owners as staff suffer the effects of work related stress. Stress-related problems are common and include sickness and nausea, insomnia, headaches, stomach upsets and clinical depression.
- The role of the employer/manager is crucial. If these issues are dealt with in a positive, supportive and preventative way, staff will feel more secure and comfortable at work. However, failure to deal with situations, or to take an unsupportive approach, undermines staff and leaves them feeling vulnerable
Health and Safety Executive
Tel: 02920 263000