Guide to Preventing Workplace Violence
According to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), there are two million reports of violence in the workplace each year. What is worse, many experts believe these types of incidents are under reported. Business leaders need to realize the severe ramifications of such an event that often persist long after its occurrence. When employees experience a traumatic episode, they become fearful. Fear limits functionality, morale and inclusiveness. Prevention of workplace violence is the ultimate goal. Below you will find techniques to reduce the possibility of physical assault happening at your workplace.
- Install technology to help discourage anyone from creating a violent act in your facility. Let everyone know about the additions of cameras, motion detecting lights and alarm systems. You might also want to put a badge identification lock system in place and consider hiring full-time security personnel (especially if you have high dollar assets on hand).
- Implement a thorough background screening when adding new workers. Always check references and consider hiring a professional agency to perform checks for your company.
- Issue a zero tolerance policy concerning harassment in the workplace. Clearly word the document so that it is plain that ANY type of aggression against a fellow employee is grounds for discipline and any act of physical contact will result in immediate termination. Print out copies of the policy and have each employee sign one which will be kept in his/her personnel file. Also include the same information in your employee manual and post a copy in a prominent place at your workplace.
- Educate and communicate your work team regarding the subject. It is a nasty one that leaders sometimes wish to avoid or speak about euphemistically. Don't do this. Share statistics about workplace violence and start a discussion about what can cause it. Encourage team members to speak honestly about any negative feelings and discuss what to do to make things better.
- Observe employees closely for signs of conflict that could potential turn hostile. Mediate as quickly as possible so that issues do not escalate it. Give employees permission to express emotions freely to you without reprisal. Create a workplace that fosters a friendly bonded environment that is inclusive and non-judgemental.
- Know the warning signs that potentially lead to violent acts. These include drug or alcohol abuse, frequent absences or tardiness, decline in job performance, personality changes including rapid mood swings, other policy violations and frequent complaints. Do not dismiss your "gut" feelings of something being amiss, instead explore it and handle accordingly.
- Set an emergency action plan in place. Workers need to know what to do in the event of a workplace violence incident. The first step should be contacting security and law enforcement. Secondly, employees should know where the nearest safe area is and how to get there so they can remove themselves and any customers from a "danger zone".
Tragedies happen everywhere--including at the job. Your responsibility as a leader is to create and implement a comprehensive plan tailored to prevent violence from happening where you and your team work. Take the mandate to heart and begin developing your safety initiatives today.
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