The High Price of OVA

5 Costs and How to Address Them

The current job market is challenging, with high turnover rates and staff retention being a major concern for employers and HR managers. In some sectors workplace violence is a major contributing factor.

This issue is affecting all industries, but it is particularly evident in the service sector where higher rates of OVA are documented. These high-risk organisations regularly deal with OVA incidents which has been shown to increase staff turnover and company costs.

Outlined in this article are five typical costs that OVA creates for an organisation as well as some recommendations on how to combat this rising problem

What is OVA and what causes it?

OVA stands for occupational violence and aggression and encompasses psychosocial risks such as physical and verbal abuse in the workplace. Examples of OVA include:

  • Hitting, kicking, pushing
  • Throwing things
  • Yelling
  • Threatening and intimidation

A study done by ASRC found that 90% of employees have experienced aggression or workplace violence, due to many contributing factors. One particularly pertinent factor is stress, and this has increased dramatically in previous years in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stress is complex and can be explained as an imbalance between the demands on oneself and the perceived ability to handle those demands. In organisations worldwide, customers, clients and employees may react differently to these demands, leading to challenging situations.

For instance, during the height of the pandemic, many people opposed the restrictions placed upon them. This resulted in customers refusing to wear masks and therefore creating difficult circumstances for others. At times, these situations escalated and left employees dealing with OVA incidents beyond their capability.

In addition to stress, WorkSafe, Australia outlines other threats that increase the likelihood of work-related violence which include:

  • Handling cash, drugs, or valuables
  • Working alone, in isolation, in the community or at night
  • Providing services to distressed, angry or incarcerated people
  • Carrying out enforcement activities

Staff retention, overall morale and productivity levels within an organisation are concerns across all industries, and it is worthwhile for employers and HR managers to learn about how OVA may be exacerbating these issues.

The cost of OVA on an organisation and their employees

1.   Staff turnover and training costs

Staff turnover is a considerable issue worldwide with the pressure on employers and HR to quickly replace departing employees and keep their organisations running.

In February 2022, Australia saw the highest rate of job mobility in 10 years with 9.5% of employees changing jobs.

The financial cost of staff turnover continues to grow with the average cost of hiring an employee increasing to $23,000 per applicant. In addition to this financial cost is the rising cost on time with the average hiring period increasing from 33 days to 40 days.

Evidence strongly indicates that OVA leads to staff turnover. When employees deal with aggressive and violent acts regularly, they begin to resent and fear coming to work. This fear leads to avoidance strategies such as leaving a position.

In a time when staff turnover is already increasing, employers cannot afford to dismiss the negative impact of OVA and the influence it has on employees seeking a career change.

2.   Absenteeism and loss of productivity

The prolonged occurrence of OVA leads to an increased number of employees taking leave from work and the remaining staff left to address the shortfall.

The National Institute for the Prevention of Workplace Violence has identified that employee productivity decreases by up to 50% in the weeks following serious OVA incidents.

The continued absenteeism results in a heavier workload on the remaining staff, which reduces the efficiency of completed tasks and decreases the quality of work. Ultimately, this harms the organisation and hinders its ability to fulfil its commitments.

To reduce the level of absenteeism and therefore increase productivity, organisations will benefit from addressing the impact of OVA on their employees.

3.   Decrease in morale

There is a decline in overall morale when employees feel unsafe in their workplace.

A decrease in morale affects all levels of an organisation and can have a domino effect. One employee’s negative attitude toward an organisation can influence the thinking of those around them, creating an unproductive work environment.

These disengaged and negative employees can be difficult for HR and managers to deal with and the impact they can have on an organisation should not be overlooked.

Instead, organisations would benefit from implementing strategies that ensure safe working environments and therefore address the root cause of the morale decrease.

4.   Costly security measures

Higher rates of OVA increase the need for added security measures, including the administering of duress alarm systems, the hiring of new security teams and the installation of expensive security devices such as CCTV.

A study found that crime was reduced by 13% in areas with security cameras installed.

Increasing security measures can be a large investment to begin with but the result is fewer incidents overall and reduced severity of incidents when they do occur, therefore reducing company costs overall.


5.   Reputation damage and customer impact

Unfortunately, a rise in OVA incidents can increase negative publicity. Organisations may find that customers avoid their workplace to protect themselves.

Another point to consider is the impact closing the organisation can have on customers. If an organisation needs to shut down because of an OVA incident, customers will turn elsewhere and may receive goods and services from competitors, making it more difficult for an organisation to bounce back after severe OVA incidents.

OVA incidents can have a lasting impact on organisations. Fortunately, there are proven strategies that can address these issues and they have been outlined below.

Preventing and responding to Workplace Violence

The key to addressing OVA is establishing preventative measures and adequate responses. For the most effective outcome, organisations would benefit from using a layered approach to OVA and implementing each of the following ideas.

Establish clear policies and procedures

Policies and procedures are there to protect employees and outline exactly how to approach certain situations. They create consistent expectations and boundaries across an organisation which is a crucial part of OVA prevention.

Examples of effective policies include outlining what to do in an aggressive situation, how to approach remote work, strategies for dealing with phone aggression, and steps to take in a negative physical interaction.  

Develop staff awareness

A key aspect of OVA prevention is developing staff awareness of what causes a situation to escalate negatively and how to avoid it.

Establishing awareness means teaching employees about tell-tale signs of aggression and common causes, this includes recognising environmental triggers, how body language and verbal cues indicate rising aggression, and how internal systems such as complacency can be a contributing factor.  


Provide de-escalation training

De-escalation is a skill that can be taught and is a necessary preventative measure that can reduce the severity of OVA incidents.

Occupational violence and aggression training centred around de-escalation strategies involve learning techniques that lessen an aggressive situation, recognising when and how to remove yourself, and learning when and how to use your voice effectively.

Seek guidance on protective measures

Protective measures can involve setting up systems such as duress alarms, extra security, and CCTV cameras, but can go as far as learning techniques and physical restraints should a situation require it.

Training around physical grabs, releases and restraints should be safely done by a professional. This type of training should not be overlooked as these techniques can positively impact an employee’s confidence and ability to keep themselves safe.

Debrief with staff after an incident occurs

Lastly, debriefing with staff after an incident is a step often disregarded but one that is crucial in preventing similar incidents from reoccurring.

Debriefing involves looking at what caused the incident, which policies and procedures worked, and which didn’t, what areas and/or measures could be improved upon, and what systems could be implemented for next time. These pivotal moments can provide insight into how to decrease the severity should it happen again. 


The growing problem of OVA has many negative impacts on organisations, however, a layered approach that combines effective, proven strategies can have a positive result on workplace violence. Organisations can utilise professional training to minimise negative impacts and therefore ensure a safe workplace that holds onto its employees.

Resolution Education offers a range of customised training packages that address the concerns of OVA. These effective training packages equip employees with the knowledge, skills, and toolkit for dealing with violent and aggressive customers and members of the public.

If your organisation needs strategies to deal with OVA and improve the safety of your workplace, then fill in the form below to begin the process. 

We look forward to hearing from you.

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