The recent tragic events in Orlando, Dallas and Baton Rouge, while not meeting the usual definition of workplace violence, have raised the issue of safety and security in the workplace in many people’s minds. OSHA defines workplace violence as “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers and visitors.” OSHA estimates that 2 million workers per year are victims of workplace violence. Unfortunately, about 750 homicides occurred due to violence in 2014 (the most recent year data is available). Among the workplace homicides involving women, relatives or domestic partners were the most common assailant (32%), while robbers were the most common assailant when the victims were men (33%).
Every industry is possibly vulnerable to workplace violence, but certain businesses may be more prone to incidents, such as:
- Financial and other institutions that involve the frequent exchange of money
- Retail or hospitality
- Healthcare and education
- Protective services (police, fire, etc.)
- Jobs or establishments that involve late-night work
- Delivery workers or workers who work alone and/or in remote locations
Every business should consider the potential for workplace violence risk and prepare itself for this threat. Here are four vital steps:
- Assess your business. Review the potential for workplace violence occurring in your operations. Every workplace may have disgruntled employees or relatives who could present a danger. Businesses should evaluate the level of controls in their operations, especially those with a greater risk such as those noted above. This might be coverage of video surveillance, building design and security procedures for your premises or screening of new employees or patients for violent tendencies.
- Establish mitigations. Based on the results of the assessment, companies should consider establishing policies regarding workplace violence. These may include policies regarding workplace harassment, bullying and weapons in the workplace and communication avenues for reporting concerns. Some changes to facilities may be appropriate to provide a more secure work environment, such as limiting entrance to buildings or certain areas, establishing money drop procedures, limiting customer access to employees in 24-hour retail operations, installing/improving video surveillance and posting appropriate signage notifying customers of controls in place.
- Train employees. Employees should be made aware of the potential risks associated with operations and the controls that have been put into place to help minimize the chance of violence. This training may include tips for identifying potential anger/hostility among co-workers, patients or customers; a discussion of company policies; strategies employees should take when faced with violence and the availability of an employee assistance program (EAP) for dealing with personal issues, both pre- and post-incident.
- Plan post-incident actions. A potential workplace violence incident should be considered as part of your business continuity planning. The type and seriousness of the incident will dictate the necessary actions. For example, an angry, harassing employee may warrant some disciplinary actions and counseling, while a broader incident that involved multiple workers and property damage may require the relocation of operations temporarily and broad counseling and other support for employees. Fully considering possible threats in business continuity planning can allow for better preparations to be made.
See our RiskTopic on Violence in the Workplace for more information.
Here are some additional resources that may also be of assistance:
In all instances where policies or procedures are being developed or adjusted, appropriate human resource and legal counsel should be consulted.