Preventing Violence in the Workplace

Apr 9, 2014
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Preventing Violence in the Workplace
In our previous post, we asked this question:
Studies show that drivers who use cell phones while driving are how many times more likely to get into a collision than a non-distracted driver?
According to a study by the Virginia Tech Institute, drivers who engage in text messaging while driving are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or near-crash than a non-distracted driver. Moral of the story: Put down the phone while you’re driving!
Did you know that?
Now for this post’s question!
True or False: Workplace violence is a term limited to incidents that occur within a traditional workplace.
Check back for the answer in our next post.
Today we have a topic that’s a little unusual… it’s not fun or silly, and it’s not something that gets talked about very often. However, we think you’ll agree that it’s a topic that needs more openness, because staying silent on it could result in an unsafe work environment, or potentially worse.
Workplace violence is a serious issue, and maintaining a safe work environment is your responsibility as an employer. This will require asking some hard questions of the people you hire, as well as maintaining an open dialogue with current employees about how they perceive the safety of your workplace.
While this can be a tricky field to navigate, here are some basic strategies to get started on reducing the possibility of (or better yet, preventing entirely) workplace violence.
1) Visually inspect your workplace.
If you’ve never done a visual safety check of your workplace, now is the time to do so. Take note of the physical layout of the space and the work that’s done there. Is the reception area or service counter visible to other employees? Can passers-by see this area clearly? Front desk clerks often take the brunt of initial negative contacts, so positioning them in a clearly visible area helps to protect their safety.
When you walk through the rest of the space, check how the work stations are laid out. Is there furniture or displays positioned in such a way that a person might be backed into a corner? Move the furniture around so that the employee has the advantageous position—closer to an exit then the client, preventing the employee from being cornered or having their movement blocked.
While these are the easiest changes to make for employee safety, other factors to consider are: adequate lighting around the workplace, and brightly lit entrances / exits. Depending on the type of facility, it may be advantageous to install more secure physical barriers, such as pass-through windows.
2) Restrict workplace access.
It may seem like an obvious solution, but minimizing the number of entrances into your workplace provides a greater measure of security for everyone in the facility. If you work with the public on a regular basis, having one entrance / exit area means that all individuals entering the building are immediately accounted for.
If there are employee entrances separate from those for the public, using keys, coded cards, or security codes ensure that no undesirables are able to gain access to those private areas. For double security, placing strategic fencing around the workplace discourages those who might otherwise see no-barrier access as an easy target.
3) Evaluate the potential for workplace violence in your field.
A strong tactic that is easily neglected is to examine reports of workplace violence in similar places of employment in your field. If your business is part of an umbrella organization, you should be able to request information on safety and violence history. However, there may be procedures to follow in order to obtain this information, so it may be advantageous to request assistance from local police security experts.
Be sure to clearly explain your purpose for requesting this information, and your strategy once you’ve obtained the information.
4) Develop a written policy that protects your employees.
A written prevention policy and active program ensures that you are able to take action against anyone who commits or threatens workplace violence. Stating your workplace’s view on violence in the workplace clearly—and outlining the steps being taken in commitment to preventing workplace violence—ensures that everyone understands what is or isn’t acceptable behavior in the workplace.
In this policy, incorporate specific legislation that applies to all levels—from top-level management to independent contractors—and provide clear examples of what is not considered acceptable. Outline specific consequences of these actions, and what the procedures will be for resolving complaints.
Be sure to let employees know how they can go about reporting their concerns, as well. If a policy is in place, but no one feels comfortable speaking up, there is unlikely to be any change and issues will go unresolved.
While workplace violence and safety is not a fun topic, it’s critical to ensure the ongoing protection and well-being of everyone in your organization or business. Employees and workers who feel safe are more likely to enjoy their work, and subsequently be more productive in their work environment. Finally, it’s a good idea to speak verbally to employees now and again, to gauge how they feel about the workplace. Ask them if they feel safe, and listen carefully to their responses. If anyone indicates that they feel concern for themselves or others, take immediate action to rectify the situation—workplace violence isn’t something that will just “go away” over time. Decisive action means a better work environment for everyone!


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