These days, a very real danger looms in the backs of the minds of almost all people who work together: the potential for violence to shatter the relative calm of the workplace.
In this post, we’re sharing what you need to know about workplace violence and why workplace violence prevention training is important for keeping your employees safe.
What is Workplace Violence?
Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It can affect employees, clients, customers, and other people who do business with an organization.
It encompasses much more than just a workplace intruder, and can range from threats and verbal abuse to more serious physical assaults and even homicide.
How Does Workplace Violence Occur?
Most workplace violence incidents are not premeditated or planned in advance. They often occur spontaneously and are usually motivated by some sort of personal conflict or grievance.
Many times, the perpetrator is someone who has had previous contact with the victim, such as a co-worker, customer, or client.
Types of Workplace Violence
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) divides workplace violence into five types:
- Criminal Intent: In this type of violence the aggressor has no relation to the victim. It is usually motivated by theft and monetary gain, and a weapon (or threat of a weapon) is often present. An example of this type of workplace violence would be someone robbing a convenience store clerk.
- Customers/Clients: This type of violence is perpetrated by a person who is known to the business and has received services or a product from the company. An example of this type of workplace violence would be a customer who perceived they were mistreated or cheated.
- Co-Worker: The aggressor in this case is an employee or former employee. Their motive is often one borne of personal conflict and retaliation. Targets are commonly managers and supervisors.
- Personal Relationship (Domestic Violence): This violence occurs between people who have a personal relationship when a non-work conflict spills over into the workplace. Unfortunately, in this instance, co-workers often get caught in the crossfire.
- Ideological (Religious/Political Extremism): The aggressor here often uses violence to make a statement. This violence is planned well in advance of the attack, and high-profile or symbolic targets are often chosen.
Effects of Workplace Violence
Workplace violence can have a profound effect on employees, businesses, and the economy. It can cause physical and emotional injuries, damage property, and lead to absences from work.
In extreme cases, it can result in death. Workplace violence is a serious problem that needs to be addressed by employers and employees alike.
Workplace Violence Policies
There are several steps that employers can take to prevent or reduce workplace violence. These include conducting risk assessments, developing policies and procedures, providing training for employees, and creating a culture of respect and zero tolerance for violence.
A good workplace violence policy should include:
- Employee training on workplace violence
- Creating an emergency action plan
- Conducting mock training exercises with local law enforcement
- Adopting a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence
Workplace Violence Roles and Responsibilities
With the risk for workplace violence seemingly increasing every day, it’s incumbent on managers and safety professionals at every workplace to develop a policy for preventing and addressing violence.
Employees also play a role in preventing workplace violence by being aware of the signs and symptoms of potential perpetrators, speaking up if they witness or are victims of violence, and reporting any incidents to management.
Workplace Violence Prevention Training
Most workplaces have some potential for violence. While the vast majority of employees are not violent, even a small number of people with aggression issues can pose a serious threat to safety. That’s why it’s important for all businesses to have comprehensive workplace violence prevention training in place.
Such training should cover everything from identifying warning signs of potential violence to developing policies and procedures for dealing with aggressive behavior. Employees should feel comfortable reporting any concerns they have, and management should be prepared to take appropriate action if necessary.
Workplace violence is a serious issue that must be addressed by both employers and employees. With proper workplace violence training, businesses can significantly reduce the risk of violence occurring in their workplace.
Contact us for an evaluation of your existing workplace violence program. If you don’t have one, we can help create one for you to help protect your greatest asset: your people.