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Customer aggression

Customer aggression is defined as unacceptable hostile behaviour exhibited by a current or former customer of an organisation towards an employee that creates an intimidating, frightening or offensive situation.

Customer aggression can be influenced by the work characteristics of an organisation, the location of a workplace, the attributes of the customer, the skills and capability of employees in managing the hazard and performing their normal work, workplace culture, and the design of the environment.


The adverse effects of exposure to customer aggression can affect an organisation in many ways. Customer aggression may result in injury to employees and contribute to injury management expenses and workers’ compensation costs.

If customer aggression is not well managed it is also likely to have many direct and indirect costs to employers. These can include:

  • recruitment costs when high turnover occurs
  • training of new staff when there is increased turnover
  • salary costs when employees are absent from work
  • downtime for supervisors and managers in addressing underperformance and absenteeism, for example, cost of lost time for supervisor
  • reduced staff and client satisfaction which impacts on morale, productivity and attendance.


Dependant on the context and conditions, but may include for example:

  • identify any threats relating to customer aggression
  • evaluate these threats in consideration of the workplace profile
  • set an acceptable level of risk relating to the workplace
  • implement strategies to reduce the level of risk while monitoring for any changes in threats or a breakdown in the mitigation strategy


Code of practice: How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks

Working Well: An organisational approach to preventing psychological injury

Work Related Violence – Health and Safety Executive Website (UK)

Page last updated: 11 Oct 2017