Violence Prevention Programs

Feb 22, 2016
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Violence prevention programs should establish goals and objectives, as well as methods to reach those ends. The goals and objectives, of course, differ based on the size, complexity, and type of work done in the particular workplace for which the policy is being developed, and should be readily adaptable to different situations within that workplace. However, every violence prevention program should include the following:

  • A clear explanation of the underlying policy, with a method for reporting violence, threats of violence, or potentially violent situations.
  • A nonretaliation provision to allow employees to report incidents of mistreatment without fear of reprisal.
  • The specific mention that a threat of violence will be considered the same as and dealt with in the same manner as an act of violence.
  • A requirement that supervisors document and report acts and threats of violence to human resources (even if the supervisor believes he or she has dealt with the issues sufficiently).
  • Some method of recording reports of violence, potential violence, or threatened violence so that future risk can be assessed.
  • Selection of a liaison with law enforcement to allow prompt reporting in the event that assistance is required.
  • An affirmation of management’s commitment to the safety and health of its employees and to their protection from violence or threatened violence.

An anti-violence policy will be most effective when disseminated to all employees and used consistently to guide employee behavior. (In other words, do not use the policy only in situations when an employee has already engaged in violent behavior or threats.) Studies suggest 90-95 percent of the population will acquiesce to expectations when expectations are clear. Therefore, a clear, objective, and complete policy is beneficial for workplace security and security.

Employers concerned about “false reports” of violence may include a provision addressing that issue. However, the policy should make clear that not every unfounded report of violence will lead to discipline for a false report. Here is one example of such language:

"To make deliberate false accusations of workplace violence will also be considered a violation of the company’s Workplace Violence Policy. In such instances, the complainant will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination, at the company’s discretion. Failure, after a reasonable investigation, to prove a claim of workplace violence does not—without more—constitute proof of a false and/or malicious accusation. However, if an unfounded report is found to be maliciously made or patently/obviously false, disciplinary action may be taken, at the employer’s discretion."

Anti-violence policies and programs should be reviewed periodically—especially after any significant violent event—to ensure their effectiveness and current applicability.

If it is determined that an individual should be disciplined or terminated for violation of the employer’s workplace violence policy, written documentation should be reviewed before taking such action.

Although the documentation required in these circumstances is no different from documentation necessary to support any disciplinary action—clear, contemporaneous, objectively written documentation—it is especially important to coordinate with HR and legal professionals to make certain that the proposed discipline or termination is not undermined by incomplete, subjectively biased, or emotion-based (as opposed to factual-based) evidence.

Excerpted from Maria Greco Danaher, Give Your Company a Fighting Chance: An HR Guide to Understanding and Preventing Workplace Violence (SHRM, 2015).

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