Workplace Violence: Avoidance and Preparation

Unfortunately, the threat of violence in our workplaces is a reality we must be aware of. In June of 2017, a UPS worker opened fire on his co-workers in San Francisco, killing four people. According to the US Bureau of Labor statistics, a shocking two million US workers reported being a victim of violence at work. In light of these and recent violent incidents, it’s important for HR professionals to know how to properly train and manage employees. 

Read further for tips on how to handle and possibly prevent violence in the workplace:

1: Red Flags

First and foremost, your company should consider using pre-employment background checks to know if you are interviewing anyone that might have a history of aggression or violence. Adapt a zero-tolerance policy on any violence in the workplace. The Americans with Disabilities Act states that employers, under law, can remove persons from the workplace for safety reasons.  SHRM recommends a requirement for all employees “to notify HR if they have a court order against an individual.” Be alert for any potential red flags or complaints from staff. HR should take all reports seriously and thoroughly investigate to establish whether or not there is direct threat to the safety of anyone at your company.

2: Respect and Empathy

Hold workshops that encourage employees to get to know and understand each other. Team building exercises can be a great way for employees to learn and express mutual respect. If you come across an employee who has displayed verbal abuse or angry outbursts, have an HR professional address the situation. HR is well versed in the legal rights of employers and employees and can apply the rules while respectfully lending an empathetic ear when addressing employee concerns.

3: Training Your Employees

It would be hard for employees to respond to a situation they are not prepared for and they need to know what to do in case of an emergency. Make sure your workplace has emergency response and violence prevention plans in place. Profile specific scenarios and go over what your employees should do in each situation. While there is no government standard for addressing workplace violence, it is recommended to run, hide, or fight and to do so in that order. This type of training may be disturbing to some of your workers, but it is just as important as earthquake and fire drills.

While this may be a difficult subject, it must be faced. Addressing red flags head on, keeping employees trained and informed, and fostering a respectful and healthy workplace can keep you and your staff as safe as possible. 

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