Regardless of motivation, an employer needs to address the potential for workplace violence. The most effective programs contain four key elements.
Management Commitment and Employee Involvement
In order for any prevention program to be effective, management must
clearly support the program. This commitment provides the motivation for
the front-line supervision and employees, to make the program work.
Key elements in this commitment are:
- Providing the employees with a system to present and correct workplace safety and health issues.
- Supporting the front-line supervision in the ongoing training process.
- Providing to all employees a clear and concise policy on workplace violence.
- Providing systems whereby management and labor are both accountable for the effectiveness of the program. This includes metrics for performance and corrective action.
The written program should clearly outline the responsibilities for both the employer and the employee. Additional areas that are critical for program success are:
- Language that clearly defines the employers policy of zero-tolerance for workplace violence, verbal and nonverbal threats and related actions;
- Outlines the process by which employees can report acts or alleged acts of workplace violence;
- Clearly prohibits any punitive action against employees who report workplace violence;
- Provides the corrective action steps that management will take to address reports of violence. This includes the investigation process, the formal review, and possible actions upon confirmation of a policy violation.The policy should also outline a comprehensive plan, whereby the employer will continually enhance its efforts to prevent workplace violence.
The worksite analysis is a step-by-step review of all aspects of the workplace. This review is focused on looking for potential security breaches that would allow for or enhance the likelihood of workplace violence.
Develop a Threat Assessment Team (TAT)
A Threat Assessment Team is a group of motivated employees, empowered by the employer to review all aspects of the workplace and recommend corrective actions to prevent workplace violence. The team is generally comprised of representatives from senior management, operations, human resources, security, and safety.
In performing the assessment, the team will review both records of the company and the physical work environment to determine the threat level. This review should include at a minimum:
- Analyzing and tracking records. (OSHA Logs and Worker Compensation Loss Reports are a good source for this information.)
- Monitoring trends and analyzing incidents. (Diagram incidents of workplace complaints and injuries. Often this will lead a team to a trouble spot.)
- Screening surveys. Survey employees to determine if they are aware of hot spots in the workplace. Compare overtime records to disciplinary actions. Often the increase in hours worked will result in stressors, leading to employee relations problems.
- Analyzing workplace security. Get out of the office and into the workplace. Walk the floors and take an outside tour, both of the building and the property line. Visit the workplace during all shifts and at various times. Often an after hours threat is not evident during the normal production shift.
Further, the team should perform a physical audit of the worksite. This audit must include a review of the employee’s movements, and facility access. Particular attention should be paid to parking areas, outside break locations, and late night access to the facility.
Hazard Prevention and Control
Prevention and damage control are full-cycle activities. Meaning, to be effective, prevention activities (Threat Assessment) must be continually reevaluated and adjusted.
During the threat assessment, the team will find areas that have a higher risk than others. Actions, which an employer can take to reduce risk, are:
- Alarm systems and other security devices;
- Metal detectors;
- Safe rooms for employees to use during emergencies;
- Closed-circuit video recording for high-risk areas; and
- Barriers between the public and employees, such as walls, glass, and locked doors.
Post Incident Preparedness
While the intention of every employer is to prevent acts of violence in the workplace, it is critical that every employer be prepared to handle the post mortem of an incident. Key areas of concern following a workplace violence incident are:
- Getting medical care for injured victims. Ensure that the facility is properly equipped to handle basic first aid. Develop an Emergency Action Plan to assist the employees in handling incidents and interfacing with the local responders.
- Secure the premises – safeguard evidence. Develop a procedure to secure the facility from unauthorized persons. Include in that procedure, the steps to be taken to transfer evidence to local authorities.
- Prepare an incident report immediately. Establish a company policy on Press Releases. DO NOT ALLOW THE PRESS ACCESS TO THE FACILITY.
- Arrange appropriate psychological treatment for victims. A pre-existing EAP will be a valuable tool should an incident occur.
Additionally, make contact with local crisis counselors in advance and arrange for their response should an incident occur.
Training and Education
All employees should receive training on the scope and intent of the workplace violence policy. Supervisory employees should receive in-depth training on recognizing potentially violent employees, and conflict resolution. The person delivering the training should have a sufficient background in workplace violence to present the material in positive fashion, while focusing on the seriousness of the matter.
Training should include an emphasis on alternate dispute resolution methods, and de-escalation techniques. More importantly, every training session must re-enforce the company’s “zero tolerance” commitment.