Workplace Violence Prevention for Your Business
In today’s society, incidents of workplace violence are unfortunately a topic of news or conversations across the country. All businesses are vulnerable to workplace violence no matter how small or large. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines workplace violence as violence or the threat of violence against workers that can occur at or outside the workplace and can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide-one of the leading causes of job related deaths. OSHA reports that approximately two million workers are victims of workplace violence annually. The impact of a workplace violence incident at a business can not only be deadly, but could destroy or damage employee morale, productivity and even the business itself.
Although there is no specific OSHA regulation that applies to violence in the workplace, under the General Duty Clause of OSHA, employers are required to provide their employees with a place of employment that is “free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees”. Therefore OSHA has interpreted this to mean an employer that has experienced acts of violence, becomes aware of threats or intimidation or other potential indicators of workplace violence has an obligation to implement a workplace violence program. In addition to OSHA’s interpretation, employers could face liability for not taking adequate steps to prevent workplace violence. Victims often sue their employer for not adequately investigating or taking proper action against threats of workplace violence.
In order to reduce the risks of workplace violence, employers should establish and implement a workplace violence prevention program that includes the following:
- Written policy and procedures that communicates “zero” or “no” tolerance toward workplace violence.
- Required training for all employees on early warning signs and “red flags” of behaviors that contribute to workplace violence and how they should respond and report.
- Reporting and tracking mechanisms to capture threats or concerns
- A Threat Assessment/Management Team trained to investigate and take appropriate action.
A comprehensive workplace violence prevention program can be an effective way for employers to educate and prepare their employees. Workplace violence can be prevented when employees have been properly trained and have an understanding of what constitutes an act of violence and how they should respond and report these acts.