In today’s work environment, employees are under more stress than ever before due to problems stemming from finances, marital, significant other relationships, and co-worker issues. Unfortunately, workplace violence incidents are becoming more common and the potential for workplace violence can’t be totally eliminated, but there are things that can be done to minimize it. Awareness and preparation are key factors.
Evaluate the security of all work sites, establish a security plan for each location, and update the plan on a regular basis. The chance of violence is greater for certain jobs including jobs of contact with the public, working in late or early hours, exchanging money, delivering goods or services, high stress jobs, high crime areas, and if working alone or in small numbers.
Initiate safety measures. Increase security with alarms, closed-circuit cameras or guards. Lock doors to limit public access. Increase visibility with lighted entrances and exists. Shield workers with windows, partitions or high and wide counters. Alter cash handling policies or install drop safes. Arrange furniture so workers cannot be trapped by an attacker. Remove anything that has the potential to be used as a weapon from your environment.
Hire responsibly. No one should be hired without a reference check.
Clearly communicate company policy about violence and reprisals. Employee manuals should clearly explain what behavior is acceptable, what is not, and what will be done by whom, if violence occurs. It should contain written criteria for reporting incidents and repercussions if an incident occurs. Employer response should be predictable and consistent. Create clear levels of authority and procedures for dealing with the risk of and response to violence in advance. If a threat of violence is identified, potential victims or targets should be alerted along with others who may be affected, such as supervisors or front office personnel.
Train workers to recognize early signs of potential violence. The most commonly mentioned warning signs are: a history of violent behavior, an obsession with weapons, carrying a concealed weapon, verbal threats of harm, being paranoid, being a loner, obsessive involvement with the job, holding a grudge, workplace physical actions, bizarre comments or expressing extreme desperation over recent family, financial or personal problems. Employees should take all threats seriously and report any bizarre or suspicious behavior.
Be aware that Employees may be armed. In Texas, employers can ban weapons in the workplace, including guns that workers have a concealed license for and carry them legally. The Employee can keep them in their car with the proper permit. Make this policy clear that all employees know your location is a “gun free” workplace.
Give workers training in nonviolent response techniques and conflict resolution, to reduce the risk of volatile situations leading to physical violence. Training should also be given on how to respond to a violent situation. Workplace violence takes a toll on both employers and employees. It affects not only those assaulted, but also those who are witnesses. It can negatively affect the future reputation of a business.
The work site Employer is ultimately responsible for creating and maintaining a safe workplace. OSHA (Federal Law) requires employers to provide employees a safe workplace free from recognized hazards that are likely to to cause death or serious physical harm. If an employee reports a concern, it’s managements responsibility to take steps to address that concern.