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What Can Employers Do to Prevent Workplace Violence?

HR Policies & Procedures
by Chris Ceplenski

Workplace violence and homicides are ongoing threats for employers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the 4,547 workplace injuries resulting in death in 2010, 506 were homicides.

While there is no federal law that establishes an employer’s duty to prevent workplace violence against employees, companies must comply with the general duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which states that each employer must furnish a place of employment that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” Some states also have laws that may be imposed on employers so check with your state to ensure compliance.

So, what can employers do to prevent workplace violence? Employer policies should include security measures to prevent workplace violence, including premises security (e.g., access control systems, lighting, procedures, protocol and policies) and data security (e.g., measures to prevent unauthorized use of employer computer systems and other forms of electronic communication). Many organizations also have policies that limit or monitor access of nonemployees to the premises, including:

  • Limited public access to all or portions of the building.
  • Check-in or sign-in desk to screen visitors.
  • Increased lighting on the grounds or parking lots.
  • Access-card entry systems.
  • ID cards for employees and visitors.
  • Video surveillance inside and outside the building.
  • Security guards patrolling buildings, grounds or parking lots.
  • Escort service to and from the parking lot for employees after hours.
  • Metal detectors at building entry points.
  • Cabs for employees working late.

Here are more options and best practices to reduce the risk of workplace violence:

  • Conduct background checks for all employees.
  • Have policies on: workplace violence prevention, weapons in the workplace, non discrimination and harassment, drug and alcohol use, and safety procedures.
  • Conduct a periodic review and update of all company polices to ensure they address issues related to security, safety, anti-harassment, and workplace violence prevention.
  • Take all complaints seriously. “You need to investigate all complaints, whether they’re verbal or in writing. That’s really extremely critical so that if employees are feeling uncomfortable with any other employees – or even outside vendors, anything – you should investigate all complaints.” Di Ann Sanchez advised in a recent BLR webinar.
  • Conduct periodic risk assessments where you assess potential threats and review security measures.
  • Give employees a way to report violence and potential violence. “Communicate how to report. I can’t emphasize this enough: your employees and your supervisors need to know how to report a potential act of violence. Where do they go? What should they include? Be very detailed in your policies and in your training of what they should do in a potential situation.” Sanchez told us.
  • Train supervisors to avoid negligent hiring and retention.
  • Create an emergency action plan.
  • Communicate the emergency action plan to all personnel and related agencies.
  • Train everyone on the emergency action plan.
  • Practice the emergency action plan.
  • Appoint a public information representative for the company.
  • Train employees in CPR and first aid.
  • Offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and educate the employees about it.
  • Locate and have available blueprints of the facility.

For more information on workplace violence prevention, order the webinar recording of “Workplace Violence: Addressing HR-Management Issues, Security Concerns, and More.” To register for a future webinar, visit http://store.blr.com/events/webinars.

Di Ann Sanchez, SPHR, is the founder and president of DAS HR Consulting LLC, a HUB-certified firm focused on creative and non-traditional human resources programs and services. Ms. Sanchez has more than 25 years of experience and has held executive human resources positions with both private and public companies.

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  1. Barb        
    December 27, 2013 6:27 pm

    What about when someone’s behavior seems erratic? You have to worry about the fine line between being proactive re violence and taking action that could be considered mental disability discrimination.