World Safety and Health at Work Day 2018. An invisible workplace safety risk.by Richard Coleman.
When my Business Partner Gabrielle Harris started Interchange, the business that I lead as CEO, she did so to ‘create change like it had never been done before’. This lofty purpose challenges us to work and play in spaces where change is slow or non-existent, as well as to think creatively to make a difference where change efforts haven’t really worked. Domestic and Family Violence is one of those areas.
In 2017 we were approached by Whitelion, an Australian based charity that works with children and young people who are at risk of getting entangled in the Juvenile Justice system, to build awareness within their donor base about the impact of domestic and family violence on young people. We tried to live up to our purpose and we did that using Virtual Reality to put donors into the shoes of the young people for who they were providing support. I do not know the impact of that experience on those donors but I am acutely aware of its impact on me and this business. In the process of researching the issue of domestic and family violence, I had a challenging personal epiphany. I’d had a 20 year career in senior health and safety roles and had not once, not even in passing, considered that this issue was something that my function should or could think about addressing. When I’d sat around the table in HR leadership team meetings and someone spoke about our family violence policies and procedures, I’d drift off. It wasn’t that I didn’t care, the idea of domestic violence is abhorrent, it was simply that this wasn’t directly relevant. In my head it was rare, it was being handled and it wasn’t a ‘safety issue’. I was naive and blinkered. The base truth of domestic and family violence in Australia is appalling and it is a workplace issue. It is specifically a workplace safety issue because of its horrible burden and the scale of its impact.
- 30% of women has suffered physical or sexual violence at the hands of someone they know (WhiteRibbon)
- 75% of domestic violence victims face harassment from intimate partners while they are at work (Family Violence Prevention Fund, 1998).
- 96% experience problems at work due to abuse, 56% are late to work, 28% leave work early, and 54% miss entire days of work (American Institute on Domestic Violence, 2001).
Domestic and family violence doesn’t start and stop somewhere nebulous out in the community. It is all pervasive and is happening today in our workplaces. The fact is that the workplace implications are real and they include:
- perpetrator ‘entering’ the workplace by using email or telephone to contact the victim survivor
- perpetrator attending the workplace and verbally or physically attacking a victim survivor •
- the perpetrator verbally or physically attacking the victim survivor in circumstances where both parties work together
- perpetrator making threats to the workplace or coworkers of an employee who is a victim survivor
- an employee who is a victim survivor having an impaired ability to work safely due to injury or distraction caused by family violence
- diminished mental and physical wellbeing of an employee who is a victim survivor
- employee’s ability to work safely impaired due to distraction caused by being a perpetrator of family
- perpetrator using work resources to plan or commit family violence
- perpetrator presenting outside work premises to intimidate, threaten or assault an employee who is a victim survivor
For World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2018 I’d like to share with you a selection of resources around this issue. I hope you find them useful. As always please share your comments, questions and experiences. If you’d like to start a private conversation feel free to email me on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Advice for employers – Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria
Sexual Harassment and Violence at Work – Workplace Respond.Org (US)
DV and FV – A workplace issue – Australian Human Rights Commission