Nearly half (48%) of HR professionals said their organizations had at some point experienced workplace violence, up from 36% in 2012, according to a 2019 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey. Incidents included harassment and intimidation, as well as physical assaults and homicides.
While many of these incidents are independent of the business or organization at which they take place, it is the employer’s responsibility to actively combat the possibility of an attack and to minimize the effects should one occur. This is one way employers can help protect workers against health and safety hazards at work, which includes violence and harassment as potential hazards within the workplace, as outlined in the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
Here are five steps you can take to help prevent violence in the workplace:
- Conduct an audit of your workplace safety and security policies and procedures to identify any gaps and make a plan to address them.
- Develop a workplace violence prevention policy that states what types of activities are prohibited and what employees should do if they have concerns that workplace violence could occur.
Train employees and managers to recognize signs and behavioral changes that may indicate that a co-worker could be prone to committing a violent act. Have systems in place to assist these employees.
- Employers should have a zero-tolerance policy for violence at work, including threats, intimidation and harassment. The policy should include visitor security and weapons at work.
- Include statements that encourage employees to come forward when they have protections against domestic partners. As an employer, you should be informed of any individuals that should not be on your premises and ensure that relevant employees know what to do if an unauthorized visitor should appear.
Provide training on what employees should do if they witness a violent act or become a victim of violence at work or a workplace shooting. The time to prepare for and prevent workplace violence is before the threat happens. Employees will be able to more effectively respond if they have been properly trained and know what to do.
- Employee assistance programs are a low-cost benefit that can help employees manage stress and difficult situations at work or outside of work.
Create a culture in which employees feel safe coming forward to report concerns they have in the workplace. When employees feel that they can bring up issues with their supervisors and managers, they can be addressed before they get out of hand. It is also critical for senior leaders to buy into these programs in order for them to be successful.
- Consult with your local law enforcement agencies to see if they provide security assessments and training on how to respond in the event of a workplace shooting.
For more information on human resources and workplace safety, contact Carrie Cox using the information below.
HR & Org. Development Services
Carrie has experience in a variety of human resource functions, including labor laws, compensation structures, employee classification, benefits administration, performance management and human resource best practices. She has served clients in a number of industries, including manufacturing, construction, banking, government, and not-for-profits. Carrie is a member of the national and local chapters of the Society of Human Resource Professionals (SHRM) and serves on the Wichita chapter board of directors.
She is a certified practitioner for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® and the Hay Group’s Emotional and Social Competency Inventory. Her additional certifications include Certified Professional Coach from the Academy of Creative Coaching, Professional in Human Resources (PHR) from the Human Resource Certification Institute, and SHRM-CP designated by the SHRM.