Background Checks Used to Ensure Workplace Safety

The Society for Human Resources reports that over half of HR professionals are at least somewhat concerned about workplace violence, according to a recent survey. And increasingly, employers are using background checks to help ensure workplace safety.

Companies Look to HR Professionals to Create a Safe Workplace as Part of Business Strategy

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that more than half (57 percent) of HR professionals are somewhat or very concerned about workplace violence according to the SHRM Workplace Violence Survey, released today. HR professionals are taking the lead to address security concerns within their organizations and are responding with increased background checking for potential employees and greater security precautions.

Compared to a similar survey done by SHRM in 1996, the number of respondents reporting they conduct criminal background checks has increased by 29 percent. Eighty percent of HR professionals now say they conduct such checks and 35 percent conduct credit checks to screen potential employees, an increase of 16 percent from 1996. Eighty-two percent of HR professionals report their organizations investigate the background of potential employees. This is up from 66 percent in 1996.

As evidence that current events are causing increased security concerns, about one-third of HR professionals (35 percent) say they believe employees at their organizations have increased concerns about workplace violence post September 11, 2001. Another 11 percent report increased employee concerns due to the war in Iraq.

“While employers can’t protect employees from all of the world’s ills, they certainly can take important steps to increase both the actual security of their workplaces and the sense of security for employees,”said Susan R. Meisinger, SPHR, president and CEO of SHRM. “HR professionals are often at the forefront in leading efforts to develop disaster response plans, and implement precautionary procedures such as background checking to ensure the protection of employees and business recovery following a catastrophe.”

The majority (60 percent) of organizations look to their HR department to develop workplace violence prevention programs to help create a safe work environment as part of the overall business strategy.

Although the majority of HR professionals reported no change in the number of violent incidents in the workplace, 12 percent did report an increase in the number of such incidents.

The majority of workplace violence involves incidents of vulgar language or verbal abuse. Of the HR professionals that reported violent acts in their own workplace, more than 70 percent had occurrences between employees, 34 percent had employee-to-supervisor incidents and 22 percent had conflicts between a supervisor and an employee. Domestic disputes continue to be a source of violence in the workplace with approximately 10 percent of respondents reporting girlfriend/boyfriend-to-employee incidents and an additional 10 percent reporting incidents between a spouse and an employee.

To communicate the organization’s position on workplace violence, more than 60 percent of HR professionals said their organizations have written policies regarding weapons in the workplace, reporting incidents or threats of workplace violence and addressing violent acts in the workplace when they occur.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. Founded in 1948, SHRM currently has more than 500 affiliated chapters within the United States and members in more than 100 countries. Visit SHRM Online at

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