The demoralizing effect on staff and potential loss of revenue and reputation to companies cannot be underestimated. Despite this many organizations still do not have effective, or any reliable or comprehensive workplace violence, safety and health policies or procedures. There are currently no specific OSHA standards for workplace violence, however,

employers are not only ethically obliged to provide a safe and secure work environment, under Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) cites:

“Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act),

“Companies are required to provide a safe workplace for their employees. Workplace safety and health laws establish regulations designed to eliminate personal injuries and illnesses from occurring in the workplace.”

Under the General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are required to provide their employees with a place of employment that is

“free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” 

Statistically speaking violent societal behavior is surging. Whether that be increasing incidents of knife crime in Europe, the increase of incidents of active shooter in the US or general sociopathic and anti-social behavior seen in our communities, preventing workplace violence must be the priority for all organizations across all industries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 500 workplace homicides in the United States in 2016, making violence the second-most-common cause of death in the workplace.

Where to start:

Robust workplace violence prevention policies and procedures emphasize an organization’s assurance to mitigate violent episodes in the workplace. It also offers employees avenues of communication and procedures to follow should they be a victim of or observe incidents of workplace violence.

The first step for employers to avoid workplace violence is to thoroughly vet existing staff and any new applicants that potentially have a violent history. Utilize your job interview process to assess an applicant’s personality. If an individual’s behavior becomes uncooperative or awkward while being asked seemingly inoffensive questions about previous terminations et cetera, then this could present a red flag.

Employees need to know what policies are in place to protect them. This means employers must provide training, no matter how unlikely an event may seem. Have employees practice what they should do should a violent episode present itself and where they would go or how they would react to scenarios like a robbery or shooting. The policy should also include instructions on what to do if the threat is from an insider (Co-Worker) or outsider (Embittered Ex-Husband or Disgruntled Former Employee) Employers also need to provide training on the policy itself and it should include:   

  • Clear instructions outlining the employer policy of zero tolerance for workplace violence and threats.
  • Clear instructions on the avenues of communication for reporting incidents and suggest ways to reduce or to eliminate risks.
  • Establishing a robust plan for maintaining security in the workplace; and who is responsible for assessing or evaluating existing and potential violence hazards and mitigating them.
  • Clear instructions on how to react and manage potential and actual violent events by incorporating what to do scenarios into an emergency actions plan  
  • The policy should form procedures for notifying security or law enforcement
  • A workplace violence policy also should provide instructions on what support measures exist for employees who become victims of violence such as medical centers, counseling services, victim advocacy groups, legal aid, or domestic violence shelters.