4 Elements of a Workplace Violence Prevention Program
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) reports that every year, a staggering two million people in the United States are victimized by some form of non-fatal workplace violence. DOL statistics further estimate that 1,000 homicides annually are attributed to violence in the confines of the work environment.
These numbers are inclusive of not just current disgruntled employees lashing out against co-workers, but consider workplace violence in other forms, including external crime threats, such as robbery, frustrated or dissatisfied customers or clients, former employees, or domestic incidents that follow an employee to work.
Employers have a duty to provide a safe workplace and this means having a strong workplace violence prevention program.
When developing a program to prevent workplace violence, consider the wealth of information and guidelines available from government and private sector sources, such as the DOL’s Workplace Violence Program. Also, consider that the most successful workplace violence programs incorporate a true assessment of the workplace environment, security, education, and a dedicated monitoring and awareness of employee behavior on the individual level.
Let’s look at each of these elements:
1. Work Environment
Fostering a healthy work environment is a critical step in addressing workplace violence. There are numerous factors to consider here, while at the same time understanding that it may be impossible to expect that every employee will be content with their work environment. Some factors include creating a professional, healthy, and caring work environment by establishing a sense of fairness and equality, objectiveness in discipline matters, promoting sincere communication at all levels, and offering mechanisms for complaints and concerns.
If your organization employs a dedicated security department, it is important that this staff is equipped with the proper resources to include continual training in threat assessment and identification and proper response levels.
Continuing education and communication for employees at all levels is another crucial factor in workplace violence prevention. Effective topics include the defining of responsibilities, situational awareness, conflict resolution strategies, and verbal de-escalation techniques.
4. Observation and Awareness
Another very critical workplace violence prevention strategy is the observation of warning signs that could be indicative of a potential incident. While it is often reported that, “They just snapped…,” this is very seldom the case. Risk behavior is more comparable to a boiling pot, and can often be a process that is observable from the outside. Although it should be understood that not all behavior changes are indicative of looming workplace violence, continual behavior patterns without self-improvement are cause for concern. Some changes in behavior or change in conduct indicators could include:
- Attendance problems
- Decreased productivity
- Inconsistent work patterns
- Concentration problems
- Safety issues
- Poor health and hygiene
- Evidence of possible drug or alcohol use/abuse
- Evidence of serious stress factors
- Sudden and violent outbursts
- Unshakable depression
When it comes to preventing workplace violence, the saying, “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst” holds true. Workplace safety must be a core part of your organizational security program and overarching strategy. If you need help crafting your policies or assessing your risks, request a consultation with one of our risk management experts. Learn more about our workplace violence prevention program here.