A Dangerous World - Preventing Workplace Violence

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October 20, 2017

A Dangerous World - Preventing Workplace Violence

Workplace violence is a common issue. For example, as recently as October 18, an employee at a Maryland granite company took a gun to work and shot five of his coworkers (three of whom died) before driving to Delaware and killing another person. The man concerned had a history of violence.

How can you avoid your office or workplace becoming the next headline? Workplace violence - defined as any act or threat of physical violence, intimidation or threatening and disruptive behavior is common. In 2014 there were 403 homicides in places of work and nearly 2 million workers report being victims each year. Many more cases go unreported.

Here are some tips:

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1. Establish a zero-tolerance policy towards workplace violence, covering everyone who comes into contact with company personnel. Bullying often leads to violence - dealing with discourteous or verbally abusive employees or supervisors before it escalates to violence can be the strongest way to prevent incidents.

1. Identify the specific risks of your workplace. The highest risks are faced by delivery drivers, anyone who exchanges money with the public, healthcare professionals, public service workers and customer service agents. Obviously, these groups are exposed to violence from customers and the public as well as from coworkers. Risks are also increased late at night or for those working alone or in small groups.

3. Come up with a plan to reduce those risks. For example, consider sending two people rather than one on delivery at night, especially to higher-crime areas. There is no absolute, one size fits all security plan - any violence prevention plan needs to be tailored to the size of your company. Once the plan is in place, everyone should be trained in it - including you.

4. Improve company culture. Although not all workplace violence is a result of disgruntled employees - you can do your best to avoid having disgruntled employees in the first place. Make sure that you are not allowing or, worse, rewarding bullying and negative behavior. Ensure that managers and supervisors are properly trained. Reward sincere communication. Also, think about work-life balance. People are more likely to become abusive if under stress from long hours or from family issues.

5. Provide training on awareness. Work towards establishing tolerance and watch for interpersonal conflicts that can escalate.

6. Have a proper system for complaints about bullying or abuse - and ensure people are protected from retaliation. Doing nothing about a legitimate complaint gives the abuser free rein to continue. Make sure complaints are handled impartially and bear in mind resolving a problem may mean separating the people concerned. Also, don't be afraid to terminate an employee if necessary - but if you do, make sure to heighten security as fired employees have been known to come back with firearms (which is not the way you want to be proved right).

7. Put together an action plan for if a violent incident happens, and drill it occasionally (like fire drills). This is particularly important for public-facing businesses such as stores or banks. Educate employees on what to do if they find themselves facing an abusive customer or coworker who's behavior is starting to escalate towards violence. Consider whether you need to improve physical security (for example, installing panic buttons) in your workplace to protect from violence from customers or criminals.

8. If an incident does happen, then go over your prevention methods again. Not everything can be prevented, but analyzing any incidents can help you find holes in your system that might stop it from happening again. Make sure that the victim has access to counseling and involve the police if you feel it is appropriate. Investigate all incidents properly.

Workplace violence is something which should never be allowed to happen - everyone should be able to feel safe at work. However, it remains an issue that employers have to deal with in a fair and impartial way. One of the solutions is to provide good continuing education to supervisors and managers - contact Lorman Education Services for more information.





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