No business owner wants to think about a violent event happening at their workplace, but each year, more than 2 million American employees report having been a victim of various types of workplace violence. According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 409 workers were fatally injured in work-related attacks in 2014. To put that into perspective, that’s about 16 percent of the 4,821 workplace fatalities from the same year.
What Are The 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, and law enforcement officers, teachers, and flight attendants are at risk, too.
- 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.
How to Mitigate Workplace Violence
Mitigating all types of 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. Do your workers leave late at night or is your location in an area with high crime? These scenarios put employees at a higher risk of violence.
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 can be equipped with technology such as AlertMedia’s SafeSignal, an easy-to-use mobile app and monitoring system designed to enhance lone worker safety in life-threatening or dangerous situations. This zero-button safety solution works in conjunction with a tether (plugged into any iOS or Android smartphone) or a timed session—empowering your people to quickly send a distress signal to the AlertMedia Monitoring Center in an emergency.
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.
Here are 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 buildings 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 to Be Aware and Alert
Set up training sessions to help employees be more aware about intruders and the risks they bring to the workplace. In addition, encourage employees to report suspicious visitors or potential acts of violence. For instance, who should they tell? What details are important? It’s best to be very specific about this type of reporting. Mere minutes matter when a potentially threatening situation is at hand.
Communication is a vital link in the chain to prevent workplace violence. Make sure teams are meeting regularly to discuss their work and to air any unsolved 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 a possible outcome. Work toward a quick resolution of conflicts. Finally, a modern employee notification system is a must-have in keeping employees informed of potentially dangerous situations.
In conclusion, keeping employees safe by preventing workplace violence is the responsibility for every employer. Take steps now to mitigate the risk of danger and make the workplace safe for all employees.