As Victoria nears reaching its double dose vaccination threshold of 80% of the eligible population this week, many real estate businesses will be permitted to welcome their employees and customers back to their premises and public open for inspections (public auctions were previously permitted) as part of the Victorian Government’s reopening roadmap. A key feature of this roadmap is that public open for inspections and auctions will be able to reopen to fully vaccinated buyers / renters. While over 90% of Victorians have, to date, received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, such vaccination requirements can, at times, be divisive, as reflected by recent Melbourne protests.

As many real estate businesses will be required to check vaccination status before allowing people entry to their premises or properties, a common concern for employers is that their employees may be subjected to occupational violence and aggression if required to refuse entry to an unvaccinated attendee.

It is therefore important that employers are aware of their obligations in protecting the health and safety of their employees, so far as is reasonably practicable, in light of the risks of potential occupational violence and aggression, as well as the important steps employers can take to reduce the risks of this occurring.


What is Occupational Violence and Aggression?

WorkSafe Victoria defines Occupational Violence and Aggression as when a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in a situation related to their work. It can arise from anywhere – clients, customers, the public or even co-workers and can include:

  • eye rolling and sneering
  • yelling, swearing, calling names
  • standing over someone
  • spitting, shoving, tripping, grabbing, hitting, punching
  • threats of violence, threats with weapons
  • sexual assault.

Occupational violence and aggression can have a negative impact on employees’ physical and mental wellbeing and create a negative working environment. As employers have an obligation to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and free of risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable, it is important that employers take steps to manage the risks associated with occupational violence and aggression.


What can employers do to reduce occupational violence and aggression in the workplace?

Employers may wish to consider taking the following steps to assist them in meeting their occupational health and safety obligations towards their employees and mitigate the risk of occupational violence and aggression in the workplace:

  1. Risk Assessment –Identify violence and aggression hazards in your workplace and assess the risks. At present, it is likely that some individuals who are being refused entry due to vaccination status will become agitated and this will be a key hazard employers will need to consider. In most cases, these people will be refused entry on arrival, meaning there is a more significant violence and aggression hazard for Covid Check-in Marshalls (required to verify vaccination status at auctions and open for inspections) who will typically be on the front line and required to be the first point of contact with these individuals.
  2. Practical Controls– Implement practical controls in the workplace to eliminate or reduce the risk of occupational violence and aggression, such as:
    1. Placing signage at the entrance of premises which clearly outline only fully vaccinated persons will be permitted entry. Such signs will aim to discourage unvaccinated persons from entering in the first place. Such signage should also remind buyers/renters to be respectful to employees who are simply following public health directions. To this end, the Victorian Government has published posters businesses can display, which can be accessed here.
    2. Placing a barrier such as a bollard or pylon between the employee and buyers/renters, where possible, as additional protection should a buyer/renter become violent or aggressive. Ideally, this should be close to the entrance of the premises. At the same time, the employee should position themselves so that their movement is not restricted and there is good visibility of all persons approaching the property.
    3. Ensuring clear communication regarding vaccination requirements with buyers/renters when bookings are made, to manage expectations that vaccination will be verified upon arrival. This can also be communicated via the agency website and social media channels.
    4. Having a proper system for assessment and screening of buyers/renters for vaccination status (eg the assessment is done by a suitably qualified and appropriate person and includes an assessment of occupational violence risks).
    5. Considering conducting open for inspections with a two person policy, the agent/property manager supported by the Covid Check-in Marshall.
    6. Providing training and supporting employee development in de-escalation and processes for early intervention and management. This can include providing employees with information and training about identifying signs of violence, verbal and non-verbal communication strategies, encouraging reasoning, listening carefully, acknowledging concerns.
    7. Promoting a culture that does not accept violence and aggression. This includes encouraging reporting of occupational violence and aggression, acting on these reports, investigating incidents and reviewing existing practical controls regularly.
    8. Establishing a clear process to follow should de-escalation techniques fail, including escalation to management, or the authorities if required and which should include encouraging an employee not to compromise their own safety if a buyer/renter becomes unreasonably aggressive.
    9. Ensuring other appropriate measures such as emergency duress alarms are in place, while ensuring premises are well lit, particularly for properties that are open in the evening.
  3. Consultation and Education– Consult with employees early and regularly to educate them on the practical controls implemented by the business to eliminate or reduce the risks of occupational violence and aggression and what to do if there is an instance of occupational violence and/or aggression. Being proactive in this regard will be important, as many employees may be feeling hesitant returning to work given the vaccination verification requirements.
  4. Monitor and Review– Monitor and review hazards and practical control measures to ensure prevention measures are working as planned, and where necessary, adjusted and improved.
  5. Support– Support employees who have been exposed to occupational violence and aggression in the workplace, including by conducting regular wellbeing check ins, offering counselling, debriefing sessions, time off work and other measures as necessary. Managers should be upskilled to debrief with employees who have experienced occupational violence and aggression, with referral to Employee Assistance Programs if available.


If you require support in implementing measures to address the risk of occupational violence and aggression, please contact Apex HR.

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