How to combat workplace violence

How to combat workplace violence

Matt OlphinRisk Management

Workplace violence may not be the most common danger a business will run into, but it has emerged as an important workplace safety and health issue. Regardless of whether a company believes all of its employees are happy and all interactions with the public are positive, it needs to have plans, policies and strategies in place to combat the potential for workplace violence.

Although there is not a single risk factor that can predict when a workplace violence situation may arise, there are circumstances that may increase the exposure. Organizations can cut down on the risk, so let’s discuss some of the best practices involved.

Paying attention
Since no individual behavior, particular action or specific occupation is going to assuredly indicate that an employee will become violent or will be exposed to a violent situation, there are risk factors that increase a worker’s risk. This includes having contact with the public handling of money, delivery of passengers, working with unstable individuals, and working alone or late at night.

When it comes to employee behavior, managers need to be on the lookout for tell-tale signs that a staff member might go down a darker path.

Some of the example of these behaviors include:

  • Increasingly belligerent.
  • Heightened sensitivity to criticism.
  • Making specific threats against particular colleagues.
  • Outbursts of anger.
  • Preoccupation with violent themes in music, movies or otherwise.
  • Homicidal or suicidal talk or threats.
  • Extreme disorganization.

That final one, which is something so many employees are going to experience at a given time, should show why there is simply no way that a company can pick up on violent intentions just from one sign. When these signs start to arise more frequently, then a problem may exist.

Additionally, companies will want to ensure they keep various broader, nonspecific factors in mind. These details could include when the company is forced to lay off individuals or take actions that would upset their workforce.

Now, in addition to having strategies to deter workplace violence, organizations must also have response plans in place.

Workplace violence needs to be deterred through policy. Workplace violence needs to be deterred through policy.

Key types of response plans
The simplest response programs should include evacuation plans, a suggestion to remain calm and a 911 call. However, response plans should break down into various types, such as:

  • Destruction of property.
  • Fighting/ Violence among coworkers.
  • Active shooter.

Each response plan will have to be somewhat unique to the specific company, but one valuable common thread is the use of training. Rather than just writing out these generic policies and hoping for the best, organizations should consider running training programs that put employees into mock scenarios. However, no mock scenarios should be conducted until after a well-established program is in place and training completed. Even then it should be done under decision of executive management and never without appropriate notice to everyone involved.

This strategy might be the best way to actually prepare staff members for the highly stressful and mentally trying act of workplace violence should they unfortunately encounter such an issue.

At the end of the day, the primary job of leaders in any organization is to protect their workforce. The stronger the effort to get create and execute intelligent workplace violence deterrent and response plans, the safer the workplace will inherently be.

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