Workplace Violence: Understanding, Preventing & Responding

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates 2 million employees per year are victims of workplace violence.

Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other dangerously disruptive behavior that occurs at a place of business. It can affect employees, clients, and/or customers. Workplace violence is a complex and widespread issue, steadily gaining attention from the public, mental health experts, and law enforcement professionals.

Several types of workplace violence events have emerged over the past few years including: incidents involving offenders who have no relationship with the victims or the establishment, those where the offenders currently receive services from the establishment, episodes involving current or former employees acting out toward their present or past place of employment, or when domestic disputes between an employee and the perpetrator spill over into the workplace.prevent-workplace-violence.jpg

Proper training and preparedness is the first step to preventing workplace violence in your place of business. Many corporations throughout the United States have instituted programs to help prevent violence in the workplace. These efforts can go a long way toward minimizing the threat at your place of business.

Business owners and managers should incorporate the following items in their workplace to create a safer environment for their staff and those who come to their place of business:

  • Teach staff what is considered unacceptable conduct from co-workers and visitors to the business.
  • Teach staff what actions to take if they witness or are subjected to workplace violence including the early warning signs of potentially violent situations.
  • Create effective steps to follow in response to a workplace violence incident the same way you would teach staff to respond to fires, natural disasters and the like
  • Encourage staff to report all incidents that appear to be workplace violence
  • Build a crisis procedure for responding to workplace violence and practice with drills on a regular basis the same way you practice fire drills, earthquake drills and such
  • Pre-screen potential employees thoroughly (including background checks)
  • Enforce workplace rules and review regularly with staff
  • Offer an employee assistance program that includes mental health care
  • Require that all visitors and vendors who come to the establishment are registered by photo copying their ID before being allowed access
  • Use bright, effective lighting
  • Have an adequate amount of staff on site at all times
  • Establish clear internal and/or external lines of communication to avert and respond effectively to a crisis
  • Change business routines – criminals and ex-employees study or are already aware of the daily routines of your business – which enables them to know when best to strike. Changing routines on a regular basis will make this harder for someone to plan an attack.
  • Provide drop safes when large amounts of cash are exchanged throughout the day and train staff to use the safe continuously leaving only a minimal amount of cash accessible and apply signage indicating that staff on duty does not have access to safe
  • Immediately file a restraining order against any person(s) who have posed a threat to persons or property at your place of business – even if it was just a verbal threat
  • Some additional items to consider if possible are; hiring security staff, adding security cameras and/or alarms, installing panic buttons in discrete (but easily accessible) locations, and entries protected by codes, cards or keys only
  • If your staff does delivery work, running any type of errands or visits to clients/customers’ homes you should also implement the following; Instruct your employees not to enter any situation they feel is unsafe, equip your employees with cell phones or radios to be able to contact you or seek help if necessary, allow at least 2 staff members to travel together whenever possible, and to carry minimum money.WPV Shot.jpg

To make Workplace Violence Prevention effective in your place of business; learn the key elements to prevention in your particular field of business and thoroughly investigate your business’ weaknesses and strengths in regards to any possible threats.  Understand that if  an employee/coworker begins acting differently;  determining the frequency, duration, and intensity of the new behavior can be helpful.

Specific behaviors of concern that should increase awareness include depression, threats, menacing or erratic behavior, aggressive outbursts, references to weaponry, verbal abuse, hypersensitivity, diminished work performance and offensive commentary or jokes referring to violence.

Not surprisingly, relationship or personal problems can carry over from home to the workplace. Certain signs that may help determine if an employee/coworker is experiencing such difficulties include disruptive phone calls or texts, anxiety, poor concentration, unexplained bruises or injuries, frequent absences and tardiness, and disruptive visits from current or former partners.

Given that human behavior is not always predictable, no absolute way exists to gauge where an individual may be on the pathway toward violence. If the individuals display potentially threatening behaviors of concern, vigilant employees should report these directly to a supervisor or vigilant supervisors should take notice.  Employees generally do not want to be viewed as undermining their peers and, therefore, wait until they are certain that a situation is serious before reporting it. Unfortunately, at this point, it may be too late. This stresses the importance of awareness on the part of employees. Staff must be trained so that when behaviors of concern occur, a “red flag” is raised and appropriate action is taken. Creating a climate of trust is the key element of employers and business owners to preventing workplace violence.

Advertisements

Why Having a Security Guard at a Small Business Can Be Extremely Beneficial…

security-guards-can-ensure-your-safety-1-638

The reality is that thefts and other crimes can occur on business premises. Some businesses, such as convenience stores, banks and retail stores, may be a higher target target for criminals and petty thieves than others. Regardless, a wide variety of businesses choose to hire security guards. Guards can be used to prevent crime, maintain security, and assist customers and employees. Business owners should assess the benefits of hiring a security guard before making the decision to bring one on board.

Sense of Security

The presence of a security guard at a business can provide peace of mind and a sense of security to the business owner, employees and customers. Employees that work in high-risk areas are more productive and easier to retain when they don’t have to worry about personal safety. It also lets customers know that you are concerned about their safety and willing to take steps to insure it. This may be particularly important for businesses that deal in very high-end merchandise or are located in high-crime areas.

Prevention

Simply having a security guard present is a great deterrent to crime. Thieves will think twice about targeting a business that has uniformed protection. Professional guards are trained to look for suspicious activity on the spot. They can assess a situation and react to security breaches. A guard is a greater visual deterrent than just camera surveillance or a standard security system. It sends a message to potential criminals that you are serious about the security of your business.

Customer Service

Security guards can also be customer service ambassadors. A guard may man a front desk or act as a sentry to control access to an area. This can mean that there is a substantial amount of interaction with customers and clients. Guards may be able to help direct people to find products and get to the right location in a business. Guard can also be available as escorts for customers and employees to get to their cars after dark. Hiring personable and capable guards lets you communicate that your business is secure and customer-oriented.

Handling Crime

Security guards can receive varying levels of training when it comes to actively responding to a crime. Some may simply take down details and contact the police. Some may be able to detain suspects. It is up to the business to decide whether to have an armed or unarmed guard, and what procedures should be in place for handling a suspect should a crime occur. Hiring a trained and licensed guard from a reputable company can ensure that the guard behaves capably and sensibly when faced with criminal activity on business premises.

Monitoring

Not all security guards spend all their time on active patrol of a business property. A security professional may be employed to monitor video surveillance, check credentials, check for contraband or restrict access to an area. A security guard may have specific goals, such as watching for shoplifters, keeping an eye on the grounds after hours, and opening or closing a business for the day. These monitoring duties take a lot of security responsibility off of the shoulders of business owner and employees, allowing them to focus on their jobs.