Taking Control of Workplace Violence
HR Advisor feature article | March 2011
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, homicide is the fourth-leading cause of fatal occupational injury in the United States. Workplace violence such as intimidation, verbal threats, physical attacks, and property damage includes but is not limited to acts committed by employees, customers, and unsolicited visitors at the workplace. Examples of occupations exposed to higher risks of violent situations likely to occur may involve those with:
- Direct customer contact while handling cash transactions,
- Service deliveries in high-crime neighborhoods, and
- Early morning or late night work shifts.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to provide a safe and healthful workplace for all workers covered by the Act. If the work environment has hazards or harmful conditions present, then the employer has an obligation to protect their employees who may be at risk of unintentional accidents and potential dangers.
So, what can employers do?
- Enforce a “zero-tolerance policy” towards workplace violence.
- Investigate complaints and claims promptly with appropriate protocols.
- Establish a workplace violence prevention program, and modify existing safety manuals as needed.
- Provide safety training classes and workshops to address appropriate workplace conduct and safety procedures.
- Consider installing surveillance cameras, extra lighting, and alarm systems.
- Consider limiting unauthorized persons from workplace access by implementing key, ID badge, and / or security personnel protocols.
- Regularly provide current work assignment plans to help supervisors know where all employees should be during scheduled work shifts.
Each employer needs to be vigilant in developing and securing a safe work environment, not only for reasons of compliance requirements but also for the long-term well-being of the employees and the business.
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