10 Tips for Preventing Violence in the Workplace

Author: Hector Alvarez

The issue of preventing violence in our nation’s schools, workplaces and communities has become a top priority for organizations of all types. The term “active shooter” has quickly become common place. There is no doubt that 2014 was an unprecedented year in terms of the type of violence that occurred. The violent attack that took place in Oklahoma was grotesque and vile, and it can make it seem like acts of extreme violence are happening more frequently. The reality is that they are still relatively rare. In fact, the likelihood of being in a similar incident is comparable to the chances of being struck by lightning.

What are much more common are lower levels of violence, such as fighting, assaults, threats, intimidation, bullying and domestic violence related incidents that spill into the workplace. It has been estimated by the Bureau of Justice Statistics that there are almost 2,000,000 incidents of workplace violence per year. Overall, workplace violence costs employers more than $120 billion a year, according to estimates by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. However, this is not an article about statistics, it’s about strategy, and Safety and Risk Management should be at the table helping to address this growing concern.

Establishing a workplace violence prevention program can help address issue from bullying to the rare extreme acts of violence. By incorporating your prevention program into existing human resources or safety programs you can leverage established management team efforts to ensure that your program is effective and sustainable.

There are keys to establishing, an effective program; I consider these the “TOP 10.”

1. Senior leadership commitment AND involvement

2. Comprehensive background and reference checks

3. Conduct annual threat/vulnerability assessments of the workplace

4. Implement and maintain a Violence Prevention Policy

5. Implement and maintain a Substance Abuse Policy

6. Investigate all complaints/threats of violence

7. Maintain a strong relationship with local law enforcement

8. Establish a resource for understanding related state laws

9. Train staff on workplace violence prevention, management and response

10. Establish a multi-disciplinary team for responding to threats of violence and reviewing and monitoring effectiveness of related policies

In summary, yes you should be concerned, but not worried. Workplace violence is a serious issue, but there are a lot of serious workplace issues that you must deal with on a daily basis and yet you manage to provide happy, safe and productive workplaces for employees. This is not to say that you shouldn’t start or review your existing prevention efforts. However, it is important to understand that violence can be managed and in most cases ….prevented.

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