Workplace violence is a serious problem
Editors note: There are three classes of workplace violence. The most common is crime that spills over into the workplace. Examples of this are convenience stores or gas stations being robbed, or cops injured by criminals. The second most common is domestic violence that spills over into the workplace (the domestic partner shows up at the workplace and injures the employee, and possibly those that try to protect the employee). The least common is an employee or customer becoming violent.
Pick up the newspaper and chances are you will find an announcement that a small, medium, or large-sized company is laying off employees.
Downsizing, increased workload and questions concerning the future are causing stress and worry in today’s workforce.
Each workday an estimated 16,400 threats are made, 723 workers are attacked, and 43,800 are harassed, according to the Workplace Violence Institute. According to OSHA, more than 1,000 workers are victims of homicide at work. The US Department of Justice says about 2,000,000 assaults and threats occur each year in the workplace. Estimates are that workplace violence costs businesses as much as $4.2 billion annually. A spouse, ex-spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend or relative is the victim in one out of ten incidents of workplace violence, according to the Society of Victimized Employees for Human Resource Management.
It’s no wonder then that workplace violence, and the trauma caused by such events, has been the leading concern of security managers atAmerica’s largest corporations for the last three years, according to recent surveys.
Employee willingness to work non-standard hours and a changing demography of the workforce has added to work and travel risk.
Fundamentally, there is only one cause of loss: Inadequate protection of assets.
Employers have a legal obligation to provide a safe working environment to employees. Organizations should be proactive to reduce their exposure to costly workers’ compensation claims and/or civil lawsuits and large damage awards for incidents of workplace violence. Unfortunately, it is difficult for some company executives to believe it can happen in their organization. A two-pronged approach of prevention and protection can help guide business leaders safely through the turmoil while protecting their company’s image, reputation, products and most important assets, their employees.
A workplace assessment of an organization is a good place to start.
Businesses can call on experienced, proven professional security consultants, in addition to using in-house resources and public crime prevention opportunities. The advantage a consultant offers is that he/she can remain objective and apart from any office politics. Another immediate step a company can take is to implement a three-point company policy to reduce outbreaks of employee violence.
• Criminal, educational and employment background checks on potential employees and any current employees who were not checked upon being hired.
• A drug testing policy. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has reported that the typical employee abusing drugs was:
o Five times more likely to file a claim for worker’s compensation
o Involved in accidents almost four times more than other employees
o Took sick leave twice as often and others and
o Late for work three times more often than employees not using drugs
• Establishment and enforcement of a solid non-harassment policy
Two points must be kept in mind when predicting who will commit an act of violence. First, no litmus test exists that can accurately predict potential incidents of violence. Second, it is important to know your employees.
When a disgruntled employee goes off the deep end, it rarely comes as a surprise to his or her co-workers. Warning signs are almost always present and those who are in contact with the potentially violent person on a daily basis see these signs. Open lines of communications should be encouraged to allow management to deal with the problem before it becomes a tragedy.
To reduce the potential for workplace violence, employee-training programs should include issues such as stress management, how to handle confrontations and drug abuse awareness. Awareness training, additional supervisory training, annual physical vulnerability surveys and liaison with law enforcement can also help reduce the chances of violent acts on company property.
One should not overlook the importance of the above survey of the property.
Much can be accomplished at little cost. Limiting and controlling access, rearranging offices and furniture, security awareness briefings and training, and security hardware can all contribute to reducing employee vulnerability to angry co-workers.
Again, companies must be prevention-oriented. Despite what one might read in the newspapers or see in movies or on TV, the workplace is still one of the safest places to be. Organizations must do their part by ensuring that they are actively taking measures to provide a safe and healthy workplace for its employees, customers, vendors and visitors. Nothing can be done to guarantee a violent incident will not take place on company property, but much can be done to reduce the chances of its happening.