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The First Line of Defense for Workplace Violence
February 25th, 2016 Van Bethea
Unfortunately, workplace violence is a complex and widespread issue that continues to be a growing topic challenging many organizations and their HR departments. As frequent news reports remind us, employees and non-employees often take out their aggression and violent acts within or around the workplace environment.
OSHA has estimated that approximately 2 million workers a year are affected by some form of workplace violence; however not all workplace violence will attract media or law enforcement attention. Sometimes it is the quieter, more personal actions that go unreported that can have a negative effect on company personnel and can be very damaging to the work environment.
The wide range of acts that fall under workplace violence includes conduct or behavior that can result in injury, induce a sense of fear in the workplace, damage property and otherwise interfere with normal business operations. The most common but least reported types of workplace violence are bullying, intimidation and threats.
The impact of workplace violence for companies can result in reduced employee productivity, missed work days, legal expenses, medical treatments, disability pensions, increased worker’s comp claims and partial wage payments to injured employees. The National Institute for the Prevention of Workplace Violence determined that a severe incident of workplace violence could cost a business $4,695,817.
Given the broad impact a single workplace violence incident can have, companies and employers need to implement industry best practices when reviewing or developing workplace violence prevention programs.
The following items are just a few key points that are part of a more comprehensive crisis management planning program that will help to address potential workplace violence issues in your company.
- Conduct Thorough Background Checks
A company’s first line of defense against hiring individuals who may have the propensity to engage in workplace violence is to conduct due-diligence research on prospective employees through pre-employment background screening.
If an individual has a history of violence or abuse, they may attempt to hide any history of this from the employer. Ex-offenders may not accurately disclose their real history during a standard hiring process. They may use false information such as incorrect social security numbers, altered names or previous addresses to hide their true backgrounds.
Recommended background checks include; criminal records, sex offender registries, employment and education verifications, Social Security checks and professional reference checks. These searches can reveal false identification attempts or provide an indicator on past negative behaviors that could lead to workplace violence.
- Implement Workplace Violence Response Protocols
One of the most costly issues in dealing with workplace violence incidents and threats is the lack of pre-planning and proper response to an incident. The key to reducing the negative and costly effects of workplace violence is to develop a formal workplace response policy.
This policy should identify specific response protocols that will be required to properly investigate incidents and provide appropriate response strategies for an effective resolution to workplace violence situations. The policy should also include defined zero tolerance standards and disciplinary measures ranging from formal warnings to demotion or employment suspension. This policy should be distributed to all employees.
- Workplace Violence Reporting Processes
To make sure workplace threats or violent acts are dealt with in a timely and effective manner, companies need to identify multiple processes that deal with how concerns or workplace violence incidents are reported. The HR department should designate at least one representative as a dedicated workplace violence resource available to all employees. In many cases, company personnel may not want to go directly to HR to report these incidents. In these cases, a telephone hotline or drop box many be a convenient and confidential manner to report incidents in a timely manner.
No matter what reporting methods are utilized, company personnel will be more likely to report concerns when they know about workplace violence protocols and where their concerns can be easily reported. This will empower employees who may otherwise be reluctant to take action for fear of intimidation or retaliation.
In order to reduce the risk of workplace violence, companies need to team up with a risk mitigation/security response partner that has demonstrated expertise in workplace violence management and labor dispute resolution solutions.
To learn more about workplace violence programs, we are available to assist you.