Preventing Workplace Violence: Train Employees for a Safer Workplace

By Martha Boyd November 2, 2017
Preventing Workplace Violence: Train Employees for a Safer Workplace

This is the fourth in a series of articles about workplace security. This article examines best practices for training employees on workplace safety. Read the first part here, the second part here and the third part here.

Even the best workplace security plan is ineffective if no one knows about it. That doesn't mean employers need to walk their staff through a security plan in detail. Rather, it means they should make sure that employees are trained on their roles in the plan and that they understand what to do in an emergency.

All employers should have their employees watch the FBI's video "Run. Hide. Fight." This video details what the FBI now recommends when a shooter enters the workplace. The video instructs employees to try to get away if they can.

If they can't escape, they should hide and use barriers to prevent the shooter from getting to them. As a last resort, they may have to fight the shooter.

It's a powerful and alarming video, but it's a great way to get employees thinking about how to react in a nightmare scenario.

After I watched the video for the first time, I decided to figure out where I would go should there be an emergency at my workplace. I recommend that employers train their workers how to evacuate the building after watching the video. Businesses also need a contingency plan for employees with disabilities who have difficulty using stairs.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Developing Effective Safety Management Programs]

Have a Written Plan

If employers don't have strong written policies prohibiting threatening behavior and weapons in the workplace, they are vulnerable.

Workers need to have confidence that their reports will be taken seriously, that their identities won't be divulged unnecessarily and that leaders will take appropriate action, even if workers don't always hear what that action is.

So if employees lack confidence in their manager to handle a threatening situation or to report such incidents, employers may want to appoint a more senior person or an HR representative to field concerns.

Further, employers might want to set up a hotline where employees can anonymously report concerns. Whatever method they choose, businesses must make sure that employees understand that they must respond immediately and diligently if they perceive a threat.

Employers must make sure that the plan is disseminated to all workers through multiple means, including printing the plan in the employee handbook, posting it on workplace bulletin boards and giving it to employees on a card they can carry in their wallets.

Explain Employee Resources

If an employer contracts with an outside hotline service, it should make sure employees understand that the service is provided by a third party, that it is anonymous and that there will be no retaliation against employees who report to the hotline. Employees should know where to find the hotline number and should be told that the company's senior managers have sanctioned the hotline or other reporting method.

It's a good idea during training to review scenarios that employees might want to report and to explain that they should err on the side of over-reporting.

Finally, I recommend additional training for managers, particularly with regard to employee terminations. Firing an employee can be an emotionally charged experience, and managers need to know how to handle terminations to reduce the risk of violence.

Such training can also explore how to handle firings in a way that reduces the risk of an employment lawsuit.

Martha Boyd is an attorney with Baker Donelson in Nashville. 


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