UCL Human Resources


Violence at Work


Introduction and scope

1. UCL takes the risk of violence to staff and students very seriously.

2. These guidelines are intended to set out general arrangements and to provide advice on avoiding incidents of violence, dealing with it when it arises and dealing with its effects.

3. The guidelines cover actual or threatened violence. Separate policies and procedures apply in cases of sexual and racial harassment. College procedures, made under Section 43 of the Education (No 2) Act 1986, also cover the threat of violence arising from the hire of premises. Employees and students who perpetrate acts of violence will be subject to disciplinary action under the relevant College disciplinary procedure. Serious incidents may also require the involvement of the police and lead to criminal prosecution or civil action.

4. It is recognised that by their very nature some jobs may carry a higher risk of exposure to violence. These will be identified during the conduct of the periodic risk assessments carried out within departments. Account will be also taken of this when selecting candidates for appointment, while, if deemed necessary, specific guidelines may apply to such staff and specialist training may be provided.


5. UCL has a duty to assess the risk of violence and to provide, as far as reasonably practicable, a safe working environment for staff. UCL's Health & Safety Management Team will monitor annually (or at such shorter periods as seems appropriate) reported incidents of violence and consequently will make such changes to these guidelines and initiate such other action as appears necessary.

6. Responsibility for risk assessment and for providing a safe working environment rests with Heads of Departments. This includes: 

  • ensuring an assessment of the potential for violence to occur as part of the normal risk assessment procedure;
  • making arrangements in areas under their control for the prevention and minimisation of violence;
  • regularly reviewing, in consultation with Departmental Safety Officers and other staff in the area and in the light of reported incidents, the effectiveness of these arrangements;
  • informing staff of policies and procedures which apply to specific areas of work and monitoring their implementation;
  • ensuring that, where the risk assessment shows a need and they are not already experienced or trained, staff are appropriately trained to deal with violence
  • reporting incidents of violence using the College's accident/incident reporting procedure

7. Members of staff also have responsibilities which include: 

  • reporting incidents of violence in which they are involved or which they witness;
  • attendance at appropriate training courses as directed by their Head of Department;
  • acting appropriately and in accordance with these general and any local guidelines

8. Some common sense steps can be taken to minimise the likelihood of encountering violence: 

  • be sensitive to the possibility that behaviour on your part may initiate or exacerbate a situation.  Behaviour towards others may appear to them to be, for example, abusive or discriminatory.
  • where intruders are encountered, note relevant details (including time, place and description) and ring: 
    (a) 222 If you are on a telephone connected through the UCL Switchboard 
    (b) 999 If you are on any other telephone 
  • if working late, you must inform security of your presence on site; lock the door, if it is safe to do so; inform Security when you leave the premises

9. Where a situation has already arisen:

  • act calmly and quietly and maintain a polite attitude
  • avoid becoming physically involved 
    contact a colleague to assist you or, if appropriate, call for UCL security or police assistance:
    (a) 222 If you are on a telephone connected through the UCL Switchboard 
    (b) 999 If you are on any other telephone


  • in circumstances where you suffer physical assault or another person is being assaulted, use your discretion and employ minimal force to produce effective action in the circumstances with the least possible risk of physical injury to all those involved

10. Where any injury is sustained medical advice should be sought as soon as possible. Wherever practicable, immediately after the event the employing officer should conduct an interview to establish whether the person is fit to continue at work or whether they need to go home (accompanied, if necessary). In the latter event, it is also important to ensure that someone else will be at home to support the person. The symptoms of post-traumatic stress do not surface until about 48 hours after an incident and assistance in dealing with this should be offered at this time. OHS can assist in referring the person to appropriate help.

11. Where a serious incident has occurred, a debriefing of those concerned should take place as soon as possible after the incident in order to consider what lessons can be drawn for the better protection of the employees concerned. The conduct of the debriefing may involve the Human Resources Director and/or Dean of Students, as appropriate. Where the police have been involved, this will take place after completion of their investigations.