Work-related violence may be a daily occurrence, but it shouldn’t be. We look at the current situation in transport and what one company is doing to prevent workplace violence.

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In Frontline Matters issue 16, we shared the shocking results of an RMT union survey of over 5,000 rail, bus and ferry workers. Most believed work-related violence (WRV) had become worse.

In the rail industry, a 2018 survey from the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) revealed that 94% of frontline rail staff had experienced work-related violence. And just this year, Cambridge University and Rail Delivery Group found evidence to suggest that frontline workers expect to be subjected to violence, and feel unsafe before a shift, with work-related violence reported as a daily occurrence.

A 2023 RMT survey of bus workers has found that about half had experienced WRV in the last two years. Most of these had faced verbal abuse (90%), with over a fifth spat at and over 10% physically assaulted.

It’s a very sad situation. Even if it feels that work-related violence has become ‘normalised’ in some jobs, it should never be ‘part of the job’.

The rate of post-traumatic stress disorder in rail workers was found to be more than double the rate in the general population (Rail Safety & Standards Board, 2021).

Why report WRV?

It gives companies evidence that there is an issue, what it is and where. They use this to understand if the things they’re doing to protect staff are working and how best to adjust these or add to them, including identifying where to focus support. Many employers have their own channels for reporting WRV.

You can also report violence, intimidation and anti-social behaviour to the police.

You can use CIRAS to report a general situation of feeling threatened by WRV, but without identifying individuals or specific incidents (as our service is confidential).

It’s never normal to face verbal or physical abuse at work.

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In focus: c2c

A reporter told CIRAS about the risk of anti-social behaviour (ASB) and assault for staff and passengers on the c2c network. Since lockdown, staff have been seeing more weapons such as knives and machetes. c2c regularly reviews the risks and what can be done. As well as security teams directly engaging with the issues, it has a Workplace Violence Group that meets to suggest solutions. The risks are also reviewed at its Safety, Security & Environment Group and at board level. After the CIRAS report, c2c agreed to provide more information to its staff about its security operations to tackle the problem. It is also making sure all staff members have a smartphone so it’s easier for them to see this information.

c2c is:

  • providing Body Worn Video for frontline staff, to deter violence and collect evidence
  • trialling back-to-back radios (walkie-talkies) so revenue protection teams can instantly
    report ASB
  • introducing long-distance radio to speed up communication between staff and the
    control room
  • keeping a dedicated British Transport Police (BTP) officer based at Benfleet station
  • enhancing conflict training for staff
  • introducing three knife arches (which detect knives) to support joint ops with the BTP
    and c2c’s security firm
  • using social media to highlight ASB, encouraging customer support for preventing it
  • including safety and security questions in the 2023 customer survey
  • reviewing all station risk assessments.

Some of the c2c security operations

Night owl

Senior leaders from c2c, BTP and c2c’s security firm Amulet are working together to prevent ASB and fare evasion on the route at night. During one night, Operation Night Owl issued more than 50 penalty fares and challenged several ASB incidents.


c2c is working with other transport operators in Essex and the BTP, children’s charities, and local authorities. It’s raising awareness of how vulnerable young people are being exploited and abused at stations and on transport networks in parts of Essex, exploring some of the root causes of ASB. c2c is training its frontline staff and managers to help them identify exploited children and step in more effectively.

c2c’s not stopping there. Longer term, it plans to:

  • increase the number of BTP constables dedicated to c2c
  • run a poster campaign on staff assaults, highlighting legal consequences
  • review on-board security messaging
  • work with BTP to understand how female staff feel when working at stations and on-board trains
  • introduce CCTV at stations which don’t have it yet
  • create an app for staff to report ASB.

Find out more

Work-related abuse: a growing crisis

Tackling workplace violence (members' webinar)