Preventing Workplace Violence

What can you do to protect your workplace from violent incidents? 

According to OSHA, more than two million workers are victims of workplace violence each year. Some workers are at increased risk, OSHA notes, such as workers who handle money with the general public and those who work alone or in small groups. 

Workplace Violence: Definition

Workplace violence is defined as any act of physical violence, threats of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, and any disruptive behavior that occurs in the workplace.

Although it may be an impossible task to predict everyone’s behavior, law enforcement and security professionals say that the perpetrators of workplace violence are often disgruntled employees, spouses, friends, and others somehow related to an employee, as well as customers and those who enter the workplace to commit robbery and other crimes.

Workplace Violence Program

As an employer, you might consider instituting a Workplace Violence Program. This could include carefully pre-screening your employees. Extensive background and drug checks are best, but even a few simple telephone calls to former employers can offer you a warning that the potential hire has a history of aggressive behavior towards other workers.

You should take stock of your work environment. If there is evidence of anxiety, frustration and low morale, you should try to alleviate the tense atmosphere. Treat your employees with dignity and respect and insist that employees treat others in the same fashion. Make it known that inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated. State that goal in writing and post it on the premises.

Related: How to prevent workplace bullying

Provide basic security

Providing basic security should be a foundation of your workplace violence plan. Access card reader systems are becoming as common as a locked door. You could even install panic buttons for employees who meet and deal with the general public. Cameras are also a good crime prevention tool. Limit the amount of cash and other valuables you have on hand. The “buddy” system is another way to make your employees feel safer.

Romantic relationships and obsessions are often behind workplace violence incidents. Are your employees arguing loudly with each other or with their spouse or friend in the workplace or over the phone? Are they overaggressive or argumentative with customers or suppliers? Learn to spot and diffuse inappropriate behavior in the early stages before it leads to violence. They are a variety of alternative dispute resolution programs available.

Workplace violence, like any crime, can occur anywhere, anytime. But with a good Workplace Violence Plan, you can perhaps avoid a violent confrontation in the workplace that would be bad for your employees, bad for your customers, and bad for business.

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