Violence in the Workplace: 5 Ways to Improve Employee Safety

“Tragic acts of violence have taken over our headlines and can destroy not only lives, but businesses.” (Snell & Wilmer)

In 2011, workplace violence accounted for 780 fatalities, or about 17 percent of fatal injuries in the workplace, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And that may just be the tip of the iceberg: nearly 2,000,000 people each year report having been victims of violence on the job to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration.

How to reduce workplace violence and make your company a safer place for employees? Start with these five things:

1. Plan for the worst:

“All employers should asses the possibility of violence impacting their workplace. Once the assessment is complete a plan should be developed for minimizing threats of violence or actual violence. The plan must include employee involvement in the plan and understanding of the plan. All threats of violence must be taken seriously by the employer and thoroughly investigated. Any act of violence should be responded to quickly and decisively.” (Gene La Suer, Davis Brown)

2. Encourage employees to speak up:

“A bona fide reporting component is critical, as employees are the eyes and ears of the organization. Ideally, employers should have or implement an ‘Open Door’ policy that encourages employees to report any concerns to their supervisors or human resources. This will allow employers to appropriately assess and identify employee concerns and fully investigate any reports. All threats must be taken seriously until investigated and documented. A timely and thorough response to employee concerns will underscore the legitimacy of the reporting options.” (Dinsmore)

3. Watch for warning signs:

“There will not always be obvious warning signs before an incident of workplace violence occurs. As a result, do not wait until an employee makes a direct threat before addressing the issue. Instead, look for more subtle red flags from potentially troubled employees. For example, take note of employees who exhibit dramatic changes of attitude, erratic behavior, or loss of productivity. You should also regularly gauge the morale of your workforce and monitor situations that could develop into physical confrontations.” (Edward Boehm, Fisher & Phillips)

4. Bring in outside help:

“An employer may also want to consider implementing an Employee Assistance Program. Such a program would establish a confidential support service with trained counselors who are enabled with the proper resources to work through workplace violence issues. Counselors could be used both to give employees access to professionals available to discuss problems that can be adversely affecting their job performance and conduct as well as to assess whether situations are serious enough that they need to be brought to the attention of management. The program should also include referrals and a follow-up process.” (Erin Denniston Leach, Snell & Wilmer)

5. Be ready to act if violence occurs:

“Sometimes, in spite of preventive planning, an incident of violence occurs. Even after the incident is over, the consequences remain and can include an increase in absenteeism, an increase in employee turnover, loss of productivity, and business interruption. Nevertheless, with proper crisis management methods and post-incident intervention, an organization can recover from and decrease the negative fallout from an incident. There are several areas to consider when getting a workplace back on track after a critical incident.” (Maria Greco Danaher, Ogletree Deakins)

The updates:

Find additional updates on Workplace Violence at JD Supra Law News>>