The Risk of Violence While Helping Others


While not-for-profit organisations are working to help society, they are not immune to the danger of violence present in all workplaces. The risk of violence, either involving an outsider or between two employees, remains a serious safety and health issue – even in a not-for-profit organisation.

Identifying Your Risk

Although risk in not-for-profit organisations depends greatly on the type of activity being performed and cannot be easily generalised, characteristics of some activities in many not-for-profit and faith-based entities are particularly risky:

  • Employees may be required to enter into high-crime areas*
  • Employees are sometimes exposed to violent, mentally unstable individuals
  • Employees’ work may be socially controversial, subject to potentially violent protest
  • Working long hours with high incidence of burnout increases stress

Whether it stems from work-related disputes, domestic abuse or other personal issues, violence can occur inside or outside the workplace and can range from threats or verbal abuse to physical assaults. Tempers can flare and escalate to violent behaviour at any time. Violence can generally be divided into three categories:

  • Pure criminal intent
  • Client incidents, in which a client acts violently towards an employee
  • Worker to worker incidents stemming from work-related disputes, often involving managers or supervisors.*

Staying Safe

It is imperative that your organisation takes steps to keep safe its employees. As part of your safety at work policy, efforts must be made to implement a Workplace Violence Prevention Programme that does not tolerate threats, bullying, harassment or any other form of violence. However, keeping your workplace as safe as possible requires the commitment of all employees, including you (the organisation insured).

Although nothing can guarantee that you will never be a victim of workplace violence, many incidents are preventable. When running youth projects, outreach, and other community events, you may want to consider the following guidelines:

  • Be aware of and report threatening behaviour, and be alert for other signs of aggression or violent behaviour.
  • Take all threats seriously, without exception.
  • Follow procedures established by our Workplace Violence Prevention Programme, including those for reporting incidents.
  • Learn how to recognise, avoid or diffuse potentially violent situations by attending personal safety training programmes where necessary.
  • Alert supervisors or trustees to any concerns about safety or security, and report all incidents immediately in writing.
  • Avoid travelling alone to unfamiliar locations whenever possible.

Do you have a Workplace Violence Prevention Programme? Click here to get your free template.

*Employees/workers, for the purposes of this article, includes volunteers and non-paid staff.

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