Workplace violence refers to any act of intimidation, harassment or physical violence that occurs in the workplace, and may also refer to a threat of physical violence or harassment.
The perpetrator of workplace violence may be an employee, contractor, customer or visitor. Because workplace violence can disrupt the operations of your business and cause trauma to customers and employees, it is essential that you take steps to prevent it from occurring.
While there is no perfect method for predicting workplace violence, there are often warning signs. To prevent such violence, you must watch for potential problems and know how to deal with them.
One of the best ways to prevent workplace violence is to screen potential employees prior to hiring them. Through the use of interview questions, drug testing and thorough background checks, you can estimate the risk of future violence associated with each potential employee.
If a potential employee’s drug test or background information indicates that they may cause problems in the workplace, you can choose to hire someone else instead.
Another good way to prevent workplace violence is to educate current employees about their responsibilities.
Inform employees that they must treat co-workers, supervisors, customers and visitors with respect and dignity. If any violent or potentially violent situation does occur, employees must report the problem to management immediately, even if the problem doesn’t directly involve them.
Employees must also take all threats of violence seriously and avoid confrontation with threatening individuals.
Even with the best pre-employment screening and employee training programs, violence perpetrated by visitors and customers may still occur. To prevent this type of violence, you must develop a high-quality security system for each of your buildings.
For areas that aren’t open to the public, consider implementing a security guard service, installing coded key card readers, and issuing photo identification cards to all employees.
In areas accessible to the public, consider installing security cameras or stationing a security guard in the building.
No matter how great your prevention methods are, there is still potential for the development of a threatening situation. All employees and supervisors should know how to recognize and deal with any problem that occurs.
Indicators of impending workplace violence include aggressive behavior, belligerence, bullying, harassment and intimidation. Individuals who have multiple conflicts with co-workers, supervisors or customers may also pose a risk of workplace violence.
Finally, an individual who brings weapons into the workplace, shows evidence of substance abuse, or makes statements that indicate desperation over personal problems, may become involved in workplace violence.
If an employee notices indications of possible workplace violence from a customer, co-worker or subordinate, they should notify their supervisor immediately. If an employee notices indications of violence from their supervisor, they should notify the supervisor’s manager. The supervisor or manager informed of the situation must be careful to take it seriously, but not overreact.
If a violent incident does occur, an appropriate response from management is essential. Be sure to offer support to the victim of the violence and administer the proper consequences to the perpetrator. If the violent incident is traumatic to the victim, counseling may be necessary.
If you’re a business owner, workplace violence insurance can protect your business in the unfortunate event of an incident where someone attacks or even kills another person at your workplace.
The insurance covers various expenses related to workplace violence, including the cost to your business of:
- Providing medical expenses and salary reimbursement to employees affected by workplace violence.
- Offering a death benefit to the family of an employee slain in an episode of workplace violence.
- Hiring mental health professionals to help employees cope after an incident.
- Tapping the expertise and services of security experts, crisis management consultants and public relations professionals.
- Reimbursing company revenues lost due to business interruptions in the wake of a violent incident.