How to Mitigate Workplace Violence
No business wants to think about a violent incident occurring at their workplace. But each year, more than 2 million American employees report having been a victim of various types of workplace violence. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 807 workers were fatally injured in work-related attacks in 2017. To put that into perspective, that’s nearly 16 percent of the 5,147 workplace fatalities from the same year.
Main Types of Workplace Violence
OSHA defines workplace violence as: “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers, and visitors.”
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that the types of workplace violence can be categorized into four buckets:
- Criminal intent: These crimes include robbery, trespassing, shoplifting, and terrorism. The people committing the crime have no relationship with the business or its employees.
- Customer/client: A customer or client becomes violent while interacting with the business. Employees in the health care industry are at the highest risk for this type of interaction. Law enforcement officers, teachers, and flight attendants are also at risk.
- Worker-on-worker: This type of workplace violence is perpetrated by an employee or past employee who attacks or threatens another employee (past or present).
- Personal relationship: Generally, this perpetrator has a personal relationship with the victim (but not the business). Women are overwhelmingly victims in this category.
5 Steps You Can Take to Combat Workplace Violence
Striving to prevent workplace violence is every business owner’s duty and responsibility. Workers have a right to labor in an environment that does not pose a risk of serious harm.
Some factors increase the risk of violence such as exchanging money with the public or working with unstable, volatile people.
Additionally, professionals who provide personal services such as customer service, lawyers, social workers, and health care workers may be at risk of violence. Scenarios that place employees at higher risk: Workers leaving late at night and businesses located in high-crime areas.
Create policies that protect workers
The first step toward preventing workplace violence is to create policies for employees that outline what is acceptable behavior and what is not.
These policies can include the most common types of workplace violence, non-discrimination, racial or sexual harassment, drug and alcohol use, and safety procedures. Distribute the policies to all levels of the workplace including employees, managers, leadership, and contract workers. In addition, make sure you carefully establish a complaint process and communicate this process in your policies.
Physical steps employers can take
In addition to policies, employers can work to prevent workplace violence by including security measures such as lighting, premises security, and even data security (to prevent unauthorized use of employer computer systems).
Lone workers such as real estate agents, social workers, and health care workers should be equipped with life-saving technology. AlertMedia’s lone worker solution is one such tool. An easy-to-use mobile app and monitoring system, it’s designed to enhance lone worker safety in life-threatening or dangerous situations. Users can signal for help by pressing a panic button or by using a timed monitoring session. When the panic button is pressed or the timer expires, an alarm is triggered and AlertMedia’s Monitoring Team immediately receives the signal. We’ll dispatch law enforcement to the user’s exact location or follow the steps outlined in your emergency action plan.
Limit access to non-employees
To protect workers, employers should work to limit visitors who have no business being on campus. This step also helps prevent “crimes of opportunity” where violence occurs because a door or gate was left unsecured.
Steps many businesses take to limit visitors:
- ID cards for employees and visitors
- Sign-in desk
- Access card entry systems
- Video surveillance (inside and outside)
- Security guards who patrol the facility and grounds
- Metal detectors at building entry points
- Uber/Lyft reimbursement for employees who normally walk or bike to work but have to work late
Train employees on safety awareness
Set up training sessions to help employees understand the threat of intruders and the very real risks they present. In addition, encourage employees to report suspicious visitors or potential acts of violence. For instance: Who should employees tell and what details are important? This type of reporting should be specific. Every minute counts when a potentially life-threatening situation is occurring.
Relating critical information is vital in preventing workplace violence. Make sure teams are meeting regularly to discuss their work and to air any unresolved tensions or disagreements.
Teach employees to discuss their differences in appropriate ways, and encourage each employee to be open-minded with their fellow team members. Monitor teams and make sure to step in if tensions are so high that violence is possible. Work toward a quick resolution of conflicts. Finally, a reliable employee notification system is a must-have in keeping your people informed of potentially dangerous situations.
Putting plans in place to prevent workplace violence is every employer’s responsibility. Take steps now to mitigate the risk of danger and make the workplace safe for all employees.