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Visitor aggression

Customer-facing workers may be subject to visitor aggression. Equipping workers to calmly deal with these situations is important. Additionally, the reception area should be designed to prevent unauthorised entry and allow workers to clearly see who is entering the reception area.


  • Reception areas should be designed to minimise the risk of threat.
  • Have emergency response procedures in place.

Potential harm

  • Anxiety
  • Assault
  • Hit by an object

Identified hazards and controls

Aggrieved visitors


  • Aggrieved customers might enter the workplace to express their point of view and escalate into verbal or physical violence.

What workers can do

  • If you work in a customer-facing role, request training on how to deal with customer aggression and diffuse difficult situations.
  • If confronted by an aggrieved customer, remain calm. Arguing with the person is unlikely to make the situation any better and can quickly escalate an already hostile condition.
  • If you work in reception, be aware of the emergency response procedures and in what circumstances to activate the duress call button.
  • If you are subject to customer violence, consider if you need any additional support from an employee assistance program and inform your supervisor of your situation.

What employers can do

  • Provide training on how to handle and diffuse customer aggression to reception staff and emergency response personnel.
  • Design the work area to provide security for your workers. This can include installing security screens, a duress button within reach of reception staff, deeper or higher counter areas to prevent aggressive visitors being able to reach workers.
  • Ensure that staff have access to mental health support personnel in case of an incident.
  • Provide staff with a separate doorway to enter and exit their immediate work area in reception to a safe area.
  • Have grievance processes in place for customers to use to address issues before they escalate.
  • Make sure workers are aware of relevant policies, such as harassment and violence policies, and their responsibilities. This may require employee training.
  • Have access to mental health support personnel in case of an incident.

Furnishings as weapons


  • Furnishings and decorative items could easily be used as weapons by a visitor.

What workers can do

  • Report any safety concerns immediately to your employer.
  • Recognise potential weapons in the reception area and place out of reach or in cupboards.

What employers can do

  • Choose furnishings for the reception area with care and thought for their potential to be used as a weapon.
  • Select indoor plants in heavy floor tubs which cannot be easily lifted by one person.
  • Place vases and stationery out of reach of visitors in the reception area.
  • Design the reception area to minimise the risk of assault, such as the width and height of the reception counter.
  • Where glass is used, choose shatterproof glass.

Access to back up assistance


  • Lack of support if assaulted by a visitor.

What workers can do

  • If you work in reception be aware of the emergency response procedures and in what circumstances to get assistance or activate the duress call button.

What employers can do

  • Have procedures in place that raise issues from line staff to managers before the situation escalates.
  • Install a concealed duress alarm where it can be reached by the employee if they are being threatened or provide pocket duress alarms to workers.
  • Have duress alarms link back to security personnel that would respond if required.
  • Train workers in the adjacent area on how to respond if the duress alarm is activated.
  • Have designated staff members to assist in dealing with visitor aggression or security personnel available if required.
  • Establish set policies and procedures for when an issue will be escalated to the police.

More information




Page last reviewed: 04 May 2021

Comcare (Office Safety tool)
GPO Box 9905, Canberra, ACT 2601
1300 366 979 |

Date printed 21 Apr 2024