As the country attempts to recover from the tragedy last week in Parkland, FL, employers should take a step back and recognize the world in which we currently live and realize that violence is prevalent.
According to OSHA, an average of nearly 2 million American workers report having been a victim of violence at work. HR must ensure that workers know how to stay safe in the face of a threat.
Types of workplace violence
The 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.
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 policy and prevention 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 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; eradicate a bad culture of bullying or harassment.
- Look out for and stake 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 antidiscrimination 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, cameras 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.
Training employees how to keep themselves safe in a dangerous situation is an important piece of the puzzle. While some employees may not feel comfortable with this training, it is essential not to turn a blind eye to potential risks.
Most experts recommend teaching people to run, hide or fight—in that ideal order. Role-playing can also help people prepare for how they might respond by exposing them, in a safe environment, to what may take place in a time of crisis.
Managers should take an active role in ensuring their employees understand the company’s emergency procedures and feel comfortable reporting potential situations.
Workplace violence in definitely a situation where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The most effective prevention plan is one that is implemented before a problem occurs. Employees need to understand what to do in an emergency and what the company’s response will be.
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