The threat of violence is a reality in the modern workplace. Every organization is vulnerable to it. From 2000 to 2010, there were an average of 588 work-related homicides each year and 18,000 assaults per week. That is over 936,000 workplace assaults annually. Wow.
The impact of workplace violence can be devastating. It is a constant and serious threat to an organization’s safety, security, business continuity, employee performance and productivity, brand, and reputation. In fact, workplace violence incidents cost employers an estimated $121 billion dollars each year. Where do these costs come from? Lost workdays, wages, productivity, and sales, as well as counseling, clean up, refurbishing, increased insurance costs, and legal expenses.
You also have a duty to protect your employees. Though there are no specific OSHA standards for workplace violence, the General Duty Clause does require employers to provide employees with a workplace that “is free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.” The scope and prevalence of workplace violence makes it a recognized foreseeable risk, therefore employers should be taking reasonable steps to prevent or abate workplace violence hazards. The recommended approach for prevention is creating a formal workplace violence program.
Formal Workplace Violence Programs
Despite the high prevalence of workplace violence incidents more than 70% of U.S. workplaces do not have a formal program or policy that address workplace violence, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Are you part of that 70%? Even if you are in the minority who have a formal program in place, it is important to evaluate your program on a regular basis.
An effective program requires the following elements:
- Policies & Procedures
The first step is evaluating your culture and the risks your organization faces. Do people feel scared? Is HR constantly fielding complaints of bickering, fights, etc.? If you want to prevent workplace violence, you must first understand where your company is at. A survey could be a helpful tool to get an idea of what areas require the most attention.
Once you have determined the focus areas, it is essential to cultivate buy-in. You need management buy-in to make any impact, but getting your employees on board is also critical. Creating a security and safety committee is a way to engage your employees in the prevention of workplace violence. It provides them with ownership. They will take the policies more seriously if they are involved in creating them.
Policies & Procedures
It is better to have a policy and procedure in place and not need it, than to need a policy and not have one! The following are policies, procedures, and plans you should consider preparing for your organization as part of a workplace violence program.
- Establish strong pre-hiring assessments including a well-constructed application, background investigations, criminal history checks, drug tests, and references.
- Develop a plan for crisis management and recovery so all parties understand their roles during and after an incident.
- A plan for how to handle communications during and after a crisis. Our Strategies For Crisis Communication blog discusses how schools can prepare their communication plan, but these tips can be useful for any organization.
- A business continuity plan – determining what needs to be done to ensure the company’s critical business functions will continue to operate through an interruption or will be recovered shortly after. In our Disaster Preparedness & Business Continuity Whitepaper, the example of a power outage is used to examine strategies for preparing and planning.
- Termination policies and procedures to help prevent violent incidents. Look at where and how terminations take place – how can you make them safer?
- A procedure for employees to report suspicious behavior that provides anonymity, ensuring that employees feel safe enough to report what they see.
- Guidelines for identifying, assessing, and managing threats of potential violence. The Secret Service developed threat assessment principles for schools, but these concepts can also be applied to other workplaces.
- Formal evaluation of the workplace violence program is necessary. Your people change, your organization changes, and the threats change. You need to perform regular evaluations to improve the program.
Your planning and policies won’t lead anywhere unless proper attention is given to employee training. These are not one-time trainings. Keep it up. Provide refresher training sessions; change up the presentation to continue to engage employees.
- Development of a situational awareness mindset – learning to pay more attention to what is going on around them.
- Recognizing suspicious activity – what are the indicators of potentially violent behaviors in an individual?
- Conflict resolution strategies and techniques to de-escalate situations and prevent them from leading to violence.
- Understanding of the policies and procedures related to workplace violence. Explain how to properly report suspicious behavior. Demonstrate to supervisors the strategies to ensure terminations are handled in the safest manner. Practice evacuation procedures. Discuss crisis communication plans. Walk and talk through incidents.
Don’t let your company be home to the next workplace violence incident. Consider these best practices to develop a formal workplace violence program at your organization.