What is Workplace Violence?
Before we can start with workplace violence prevention, it’s necessary to properly define it. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) defines workplace violence as any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the worksite.
It includes anything from verbal threats to physical confrontations — and in some cases homicide. In fact, in 2018 the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that of the 5,240 fatal workplace injuries that occurred, 403 were workplace homicides.
While many cases go unreported, OSHA states that every year almost 2 million American workers report that they’ve been the victims of workplace violence.
Workplace Violence Examples
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) breaks down workplace violence examples into four different categories:
- Violent acts by criminals who have no other connection with the workplace, but enter to commit robbery or another crime.
- Violence directed at employees by customers, clients, patients, students, inmates, or any others for whom an organization provides services.
- Violence against coworkers, supervisors, or managers by a present or former employee.
- Violence committed in the workplace by someone who doesn’t work there but has a personal relationship with an employee — an abusive spouse or domestic partner.
It’s up to everyone to prioritize workplace violence prevention — and employees are a critical part of that solution.
Who Is at Risk of Workplace Violence?
Workplace violence can occur in any workplace and impact anyone, but there are certain individuals who may be at a higher risk. This includes employees who work alone or in isolated areas, employees who work with the public, employees who work in high-stress environments, employees who handle cash or valuables, and employees who have a history of violence or aggression.
These individuals may be at a higher risk of workplace violence due to the nature of their job or personal history.
Employers’ Role in Prevention
According to the FBI, “Employers have a legal and ethical obligation to promote a work environment free from threats and violence.”
Additionally, the Society for Human Resource Management recommends that employers put the following workplace violence policies and procedures in place
- Develop a process to report an incident, threat or other concern.
- Investigate incidents, threats or other concerns.
- Respond to emergencies, including active-shooter threats.
- Identify and correct hazards.
It is clear that employers have an important role in workplace violence prevention. There are many different ways to prevent workplace violence that employers can use.
Strategies & Workplace Violence Prevention Training Tips
- Adopt a formal workplace violence prevention training policy and program, and communicate it to employees.
- Have managers take an active role in employee awareness of the plan; make sure they are alert to warning signs of workplace violence and know how to respond.
- Provide regular workplace violence and bullying prevention training for all employees (both new and current), supervisors and managers.
- Foster a climate of trust and respect among workers and between employees and management
- Prevent toxic workplaces, bullying, and harassment.
- Look out for and take steps to reduce negativity and stress in the workplace, which can precipitate problematic behavior.
- Identify and screen out potentially violent individuals before hiring while maintaining compliance with privacy protections and anti-discrimination laws.
- Encourage a speak up culture. Establish procedures and avenues for employees to report threats, other violence or if there’s imminent danger.
- Start a mediation program to resolve employee disputes.
- Document any threats and your response to them including terminating employees who make a threat.
- Terminate employees with care and caution by involving witnesses or security for violent employees.
- Evaluate security systems regularly including alarms, ID keys, passcodes, camera, and personnel.
- Make sure employees know not to hold open secure access doors for others who don’t have credentials.
- Ensure employees with restraining or protective orders against an individual provide that person’s information and photo to security.
The Importance of Training
It’s not enough to have a plan for how to handle workplace violence. You must communicate that plan and each of these strategies to your employees. Melanie Chaney of Liebert Cassidy Whitmore states in her blog that “Training is a key factor in an effective workplace security plan.”
To help communicate your plan, learn more about how our online training for workplace violence prevention can help.