What is Workplace Violence?
Before we can start preventing workplace violence, 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 work site.
It includes anything from verbal threats to physical confrontations — and in some cases homicide. In fact, in 2014 the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that of the 4,679 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.
Types of Workplace Violence
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) breaks down the types of workplace violence 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 help prevent workplace violence — including employers.
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 points out that there are economic costs employers face as a result of workplace violence. The three most common costs include:
- Management time and expenses
- Productivity loss
- Staff replacement due to turnover
As a result, employers have an important role in preventing workplace violence. There are many different strategies employers can use to prevent violence, including the ones below compiled from the FBI, SHRM and Business Management Daily.
- Adopt a formal workplace violence prevention 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. Include workplace violence training videos that can be referenced if situations arise.
- Foster a climate of trust and respect among workers and between employees and management; eradicate a bad culture of bullying or 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.
- 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 rather than letting them simmer.
- 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.