These days the thought of workplace violence conjures up images of shootings or stabbings – multiple life-threatening injuries or even deaths. And, in fact, the U.S. Department of Labor tells us homicide is the fourth leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in this country. Nonetheless, workplace violence comes in many forms, from bullying and harassment to physical and sexual assault.
While some industries such as healthcare and social services are statistically more prone to workplace violence, any company of any type is vulnerable. And it’s not only your employees – customers or patients, contractors and other vendors, visiting family members – anyone who has interactions with your people within the workplace could cause a problem or be at risk.
As an employer, you must take proactive steps to curb workplace violence. Here are 5 simple safety measures you can’t afford to overlook:
1. Zero tolerance
The Occupational Health & Safety Administration recommends every employer establish a clear and comprehensive zero-tolerance policy regarding workplace violence. Your policy should include intimidation and threats as well as overt actions, whether verbal and physical, and it should extend to negative postings on social media.
2. Assess your current situation
Identify your workplace-specific risk factors – that is, the likelihood of different types of problems occurring. These will vary according to your type of business, size and location. Some common high-risk factors are:
Once you know where your worksite is most vulnerable to various types of workplace violence, you can develop a prevention plan based on the kinds of precautions you need to take. In addition to your zero tolerance policy, your plan should cover response procedures in case of a major threat such as an individual with a weapon, including exit and lock-down procedures.
Inform all employees in writing and also in a live meeting, if possible, about the details of your workplace violence policies and procedures. Make it clear that infractions will certainly result in disciplinary action and could mean termination. Update your personnel manual to include this information.
Train supervisors on early warning signs of dangers.
Provide training and periodic what-if drills for all employees on how to respond when something happens, whether it’s a one-on-one event or something that requires company-wide action.
Offer optional training for employees, perhaps in conjunction with local law enforcement or other experts, on self-protection measures they can take.
4. Promote precautionary vigilance
Strongly encourage your employees to speak up if they see or experience problems or have concerns, and outline a specific protocol they can use to do that. Make sure they understand you support their proactive reporting and that their job won’t be compromised.
5. Make your workplace physically safer
Take specific measures such as adding exterior lighting and exterior doors that lock automatically, installing drop safes for cash, providing buddy systems for nighttime outdoor movement, etc.
Workplace violence threatens the health and well-being of your employees, and the potential costs don’t end there. When violence happens, it can foster a negative atmosphere that hinders productivity, creates anxiety and undermines job satisfaction. That can lead to increased turnover and even a reputation as a “bad” employer.
These 5 simple safety measures will help you ensure your employees are better protected on the job and demonstrate you care about their personal welfare.
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