Violence in the workplace is a serious issue for large and small employers alike.
OSHA defines workplace violence as any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers and visitors. Homicide is currently the fourth-leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), of the 4,547 fatal workplace injuries that occurred in the United States in 2010, 506 were workplace homicides. However it manifests itself, workplace violence is a major concern for employers and employees nationwide.
Below, we will discuss 4 ways employers can reduce workplace violence and provide their employees and clients a safe working environment.
Establish a zero tolerance policy. The policy should cover anyone who may come into contact with personnel. Make clear that violence, threats, or abusive language is prohibited, and violation of these rules can be grounds for termination. A workplace violence policy should also include a procedure for reporting threats in a confidential manner.
Investigate every job applicant. Screen a job candidate's work history, criminal record, and other relevant data prior to hiring. Employers should conduct a background screening report to discover prior convictions, litigation history, motor vehicle records, employment references, education history, and other relevant background information concerning the applicant. If any violence is found in the background screening report, it should serve as a big red flag in bringing that person into your organization.
Provide managerial training. Supervisors and managers should be trained to see the early warning signs of potential violence and how to address those signs. Supervisors should be instructed to identify violence risks and report all threats to management immediately. Supervisors should be trained in conflict resolution, stress management, managing change in the workplace and recognizing the early warning signs of violent employees. They should also be trained to be sensitive to the fact that seemingly small issues can suddenly escalate into workplace problems. Employees should be trained to report threats or violence.
Conduct period risk assessments. Conduct risk assessments to uncover your company's vulnerabilities-both inside and outside of the workplace. Tie assessments to safety audits to identify problems early. Basic systems for protecting property, such as lighting, pass keys or cards, intercoms, employee identification, surveillance or alarm equipment are a good starting point to create a safe working environment.
Nobody wants to ever THINK that workplace violence is a possibility. However, by taking measures in advance to proactively prevent violence in the workplace, employers will be able to minimize the risk of harm to themselves, their employees, and clients.