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Risk is an inherent part of doing business, but we can all agree that some industries are riskier than others. High risks have consequences for employers and employees alike, especially when violence, accidents, and poor mental health are involved. These types of risks jeopardise the health and productivity of an employee. As an employer, productivity is a crucial part of employment. Therefore, it is essential to find real solutions for these risks to protect employees and create a better working environment.

This white paper focuses on the highest risk industries and professions in the UK and South Africa. It addresses violence, mental stress, and accidents in these industries, and how employers can identify and reduce risk to protect workers.

However, this white paper acknowledges the cultural, economic, and political differences between the United Kingdom and South Africa. For this reason, we attempt to highlight some of the differences before proposing solutions for employers and employees in both countries.

Highest Risk Industries For Violence

Researching workplace violence is challenging due to the ambiguous definition of what constitutes violence.

This paper defines violence as physical assault, threats and verbal abuse, and structural violence.  The violence may include acts orchestrated by intruders, clients, workers, and senior staff.


In the UK, the Violence at Work Statistics for 2020 shows 688,000 cases of violence at work, which is a decline from 739,000 in 2019. Of these, 299,000 were assaults, while 389,000 were threats. 38% of the workers who experienced physical assault sustained injuries such as black eyes, minor injuries, severe injuries, scratches, and cuts. The remaining 62% did not sustain injuries (Health and Safety, 2020).

The 2019 report (Health and Safety, 2019) shows that the average risk for violence is 1.4% for all occupations. At the top of the list were protective service occupations such as police officers who experienced violence at 11.4%.  Others at high risk of violence are health and social care associate professionals and health professionals at 5.1% and 3.3%, respectively. In 46% cases of work-related violence, the victim knew the offender either through work or social circles.

Other occupations with an assault rate above 1.4% are:

  • Managers and senior officials
  • Administrative officials
  • Skilled trade occupations
  • Caring, leisure, and service-related jobs
  • Sales and Customer service

Solutions in the UK

  • Employers should offer clear statements explaining what constitutes violence at work and the consequences to prevent recurring incidences.
  • Disciplinary action should happen when one worker is violent against another (TUC, CBI, PPE, HSE, ACAS, BIS, n.d.).
  • Employers should create clear and safe systems to report violence at work and victims should keep copies of all incidents and store evidence whenever possible.
  • Employers should ensure that all parties involved in violence receive an impartial hearing while providing dignity and fair treatment. After hearing the case, disciplinary measures should be taken.
  • Employers should encourage the use of safety technology to record and report incidences of violence before and as they happen so that appropriate support can be provided immediately.

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