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Workplace violence affects millions of American workers every year. But it is more than just the threat of someone walking into an establishment with a gun, although obviously that is one of the most frightening. As defined by theNational Institute for the Prevention of Workplace Violence, “workplace violence” is anything considered as “acts of aggression or violence including assaults, threats, disruptive, aggressive, hostile, or verbal or emotionally abusive behaviors that generate anxiety that occurs in, or are related to the workplace and entail a real or perceived risk of physical, emotional and/or psychological harm to individuals, or damage to an organization’s resources or capabilities.”
Threats of workplace violence can come from internal or external sources. The best ways companies can work to prevent the possibility of such things occurring is by taking proactive steps on policy and procedures to identify their overall level of risk.
Although workplace violence is a concern for everyone, there are a number of industries and certain environments that are at a higher risk. Studies conducted by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health concluded that the highest numbers of occupational homicides were found at working environments that included taxicab establishments, liquor stores, gas stations, security and detective services, and justice and public entities such as courts and law enforcement offices.
Grocery stores, jewelry stores, hotels/motels and eating/drinking establishments also topped the list. Basically, any situation where workers exchange money with the public, work alone or in small groups, deliver passengers or work late hours or early morning shifts are included. In-home related services, social work, health care and other types of community-based positions also are included in the high-risk category. Risks are even greater for companies with locations in high crime areas and/or for those that have positions that require them to possess a weapon as part of their daily job function.
Reducing Internal Threats
The reduction of internal threats of workplace violence starts with assessing possible safety hazards or situations that can lead to uncomfortable employee interactions. Consider the following points when reviewing corporate policy, guidelines and employee handbooks within your organization, subject to state and local laws:
Considering many acts of workplace violence are committed directly by employees, establishing a background screening policy on all staff members can help mitigate further risk. Remember, an employee’s past performance and actions are a great predictor of future behavior. Establishing due diligent pre-employment and continuing background screening policies can help identify the propensity of an employee to cause acts of violence and greatly reduce “negligent hiring and retention litigation” against an organization. Following are suggestions for creating or reviewing screening policies:
Minimizing External Threats
Minimizing external threats and risk factors is the most challenging of all. It is difficult to control outside factors, such as customers or the general population’s entry into the workplace, especially in the retail industry. The dynamic of workers being exposed directly into the overall community takes even extra preventative steps. Facilities in high- crime areas and job positions that entail travel or work in the general outside environment can provide risks beyond our control.
Creating a well-thought-out security policy can help reduce the risk of “premise liability for negligent security litigation.” Consider the following external threats when trying to minimize workplace violence:
A well-thought-out and executed policy considering potential internal and external threats can reduce the risk of workplace violence significantly. Even with the best-laid-out policies, be sure to educate and train staff regularly on how to react if a potential situation of workplace violence occurs. It is also critical to review all policies and procedures on a regular basis, as preparing for the worst can be the best defense.
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