Pick up the newspaper or turn on the television and watch the local news almost any day of the week, and you will see another incident of violence in the workplace. Whether it is the result of a robbery, domestic dispute or a random act of violence, employers need to be prepared for workplace violence. Employers need to take a serious look at the likelihood of violence in the workplace and take steps to ensure the workplace is made as safe as possible. Additionally, policies should be instituted that detail how to deal with violence in the workplace and provide employees with an awareness of factors that may contribute or lead to violence in the workplace.
Workplace security – How accessible is the workplace to non-employees? If the workplace is a retail establishment is it well illuminated at night? Is the amount of cash in the register kept to a minimum? Are employees working alone during late night hours? Has everything possible been done to make your workplace not look like an easy target for people likely to commit a crime or act of violence?
Policies and procedures – Does your organization have clearly defined policies and procedures that adhere to a zero-tolerance policy concerning violence? Are security policies enforced? All too often, even with policies in place, employees may tend to become lax in following those procedures. Doors that are supposed to stay closed and locked will be propped open, employees will often allow people they don’t know to follow them in through locked access doors. In a retail environment, cash beyond the amount allowed by policy may accumulate in the register increasing the odds that the facility could be robbed. What are employees supposed to do in the event of workplace violence? What should they do? Whom should they call? What do they need to document to help police apprehend the perpetrators? Many organizations have forms that the employees fill out to help provide identification of the person(s) committing the violent act.
Hazard awareness – Many acts of workplace violence are committed by employees or former employees. How have current employees been trained or prepared to identify potential dangers in the workplace? Have the employees been given training in recognizing radical behavior changes or in dealing with unusual outbursts of anger? Have employees been given an opportunity to learn conflict resolution skills that could be used to defuse possible violent acts in the workplace?
Every employee should be provided a safe workplace, however, this isn’t always the case. Employers need to assess the likelihood of violence in the workplace and then develop and implement processes and procedures to provide employees with the knowledge and tools needed to protect themselves and their fellow employees. The bottom line once again is you may not be able to predict if an act of violence will occur, but an organization can and should take steps to reduce the likelihood that it will occur and ensure that employees are prepared to deal with it effectively.