Workplace violence prevention strategies

Workplace violence may seem like an unthinkable issue, but of the 5,147 fatal workplace injuries that occurred in the United States in 2017, 458 were cases of intentional injury by another person, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.

OSHA defines workplace violence as any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the worksite. This can include threats, verbal abuse, physical assaults, and even homicide.

Who is at risk?

Women are particularly vulnerable to domestic violence in the workplace. In fact, women experience more than double the number of on-the-job homicides than men, with 32 percent of the homicides committed by a domestic partner.

Other risk factors include:

  • Jobs that require exchanging money with the public
  • Working with volatile, unstable people
  • Working alone or in isolated areas
  • Providing services including  health care
  • Working where alcohol is served
  • Time of day and location of work, such as working at night or in high-crime neighborhoods

Employees who experience the highest rate of workplace violence include delivery drivers, law enforcement personnel, healthcare providers, public service workers, customer service agents, and those who work alone or in small groups.

11 steps for prevention workplace violence

Here are steps you can take to prevent violence at your company:

  1.   Assess your worksite(s) by answering:
    • Has there been violence in the workplace before?
    • What systems were put in place after and were they effective?
    • How safe is the physical environment? Which doors stay locked? How are employees protected if they leave late at night?
  1. Involve employees in the process by working with your HR department to ensure that employees feel heard and supported at work. A 2013 survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 16 percent of organizations have had a domestic violence incident in the past five years, 19 percent had an issue in the past year, and 22 percent didn’t know. If you have the resources, present information to employees about domestic violence and how to get help.
  2. Establish a zero-tolerance policy regarding workplace violence that applies to all workers, patients, clients, visitors, and contractors, as appropriate for your workplace. This initiative can be a separate program or it can be incorporated into a safety and health program, employee handbook, or manual of standard operating procedures. This policy can address the following: 
    • How will you handle workplace violence?
    • What disciplinary actions will be taken for verbal and nonverbal threats and actions?
    • Procedures for conducting home visits and the worker’s right to refuse to provide services in a situation they feel is unsafe.
  1. Ensure all workers—full-time, part-time, per-diem, and contract—know your policy and understand that all claims of workplace violence will be investigated promptly. Provide education so employees know what conduct is not acceptable, what to do if they witness or are subjected to workplace violence, and how to protect themselves.
  2. Offer workplace violence training so employees know what to do if a violent episode occurs. The curriculum can include recognizing the warning signs of potential workplace violence and as well as de-escalation communication techniques to prevent an incident from becoming violent.
  3. Consider holding active shooter simulations and lockdown drills. While no one wants to think gun violence can happen at their workplace, having a plan could save lives.
  4. Invest in security equipment such as video surveillance, extra lighting, alarm systems, and tightened building access. Consider requiring identification badges, electronic keys, and guards at all entrances.
  5. Provide drop safes to limit the amount of cash your employees must carry to do their jobs. Keep a minimal amount of cash in registers during evenings and overnight hours.
  6. Provide field staff with phones and alarm devices, and require them to keep a contact person informed of their location throughout the day.
  7. Keep company-provided vehicles properly maintained and armed with security devices.
  8. Remind employees not to enter any location where they feel unsafe. Encourage them to use the “buddy system” or call building security when leaving a facility at night.

By taking a proactive approach, you’ll help prevent violence from impacting your worksite.

Resources

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