The rate of workplace violence (WPV) has unfortunately increased in the past decade. According to OSHA, workplace violence is an act or threat of violence, harassment, or intimidation, both verbal and physical, that occurs within the workplace. Each year, around 1.5 million claims of WPV are reported, but experts believe many events are never reported. Violence within the workplace is a sensitive topic and can be challenging to talk about with staff and colleagues. However, it is an important aspect of risk management, both for the safety of your employees and the well-being of your company. Due to the increase in violent incidents, both the Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security is urging businesses to provide proper prevention planning. If your business doesn’t have a violence prevention plan in place, now is the time to put policies and guidelines together for your business and employees.
Why Does Your Business Need a Violence Prevention Program?
Instating a prevention program for workplace violence can help create a safer environment for your employees, and identify risks before an incident takes place. A report released by the Department of Security in January noted that half of the violent attacks studied occurred on workplace grounds and that the majority of violence-related cases were with individuals who “exhibited concerning behavior”. These behaviors could have been an indication of potential future violence but went mostly unreported and uninvestigated.
Understanding your employees' behavior, and recognizing potential risks is imperative to protecting the safety within your workplace. Many employees don’t report concerning behaviors or misconduct out of fear. This can be fear of losing their job, fear of not being believed, fear of being seen as “difficult”, or fear of being treated differently after the incident is reported. These fears mostly emerge in an environment where workplace violence is seen as a topic that should not be discussed. When prevention plans and guidelines are put in motion, and fully disclosed to all employees, there is a transparent process that encourages employees to feel comfortable reporting any discomfort or witnessed events. Prevention guidelines can also better equip management and leaders to handle incident reports and take the appropriate next steps.
Guidelines for a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan
For a WPV prevention plan to be successful, there must be a company-wide commitment to safety and transparency. This means a written company policy is shared with all employees and staff, and leadership is openly supportive of the guidelines. The policy should state that zero violence will be tolerated, and outline disciplinary steps to be taken in the event of violent acts or threatened violence. OSHA suggests highlighting that “Effective management leadership begins by recognizing that workplace violence is a safety and health hazard”. Leadership should also be open to feedback and can provide valuable insights into changes or amendments to standard policies and claim handling.
Assess the Risks of Your Business
Assessing the risk of your particular work is a critical step in a prevention plan. You should examine factors including the type of work performed, location of your business, history of past violence, working hours, and employee relations. This information can be used to prioritize prevention measures across the business.
A comprehensive prevention plan will include key techniques for identifying potential risks before an event takes place. One key aspect of prevention is pre-hire screening. Using effective hiring practices, like background checks, reference calls, drug testing, behavior analysis, and thorough interviews can reduce the likelihood of hiring individuals with violent tendencies.
Employee Training and Education
A strong workplace prevention program should include regular training on workplace violence for both employees and management. Training can enhance safety company-wide, and provide resources to help staff identify potential threats. The training should include a comprehensive run-through of your company policy, and regularly include materials outside of the written policy, such as workshops, presentations, reading materials, and interactive discussions. Some materials to consider for employee training include:
- Risk factors for violence
- De-escalation techniques
- Recognizing violent behavior
- Importance of speaking up and reporting concerning behaviors
- The company’s response plan
- Ways to minimize the risk of violent behavior
Establish a Prevention Team
To ensure the utmost protection of your employees, your business should assign a team of individuals to handle reports, communication, and guidelines for workplace violence protection. It's important that in the event of an incident, your employees know who to go to for help. These members should be dedicated, empathetic, and trustworthy, as they will be handling sensitive information and conversations. These members should be up to date on all company policies and be in charge of any changes or amendments to company policies. Having a delegated team ensures transparency and expertise in these matters.
Establish a Reporting System
Establishing a clear reporting system for employees is critical to the safety and effectiveness of your workplace violence prevention plan. The system should be easy to follow, accessible to all employees, and most importantly, confidential.
Implement Necessary Security Measures
If deemed necessary, implementing additional security measures on workplace grounds can help you prevent and respond to violent incidents. Security measures to consider include security measures, security guards, and access control systems. Any additional security deemed a high priority in violence prevention should be regularly tested and in place across high-risk areas of workplace grounds.
Mental Health Resources for Violence Prevention
Additional considerations for a strong prevention plan should include mental health benefits for all employees and staff. Research on mental health and violence concluded that individuals suffering from mental illness are more likely to commit acts of violence. Additionally, temporary mental health conditions like situational anxiety and depression can increase the likelihood of violence and aggression. Providing accessible and adequate on-site mental health services provide help to those who may be struggling, further identify behaviors that could lead to workplace violence, and provide support to those who may have been involved in an incident.
Protect Your Business with Proper Insurance Coverage
No business plans for workplace violence to occur, but if it does, having proper coverage can help you mitigate the situation and avoid financial losses. Workplace violence involves multiple aspects of your business and could be protected by multiple policies. General Liability, Business Interruption, and Property Insurance are all important to protecting your company and employees.
ECBM's insurance team can analyze your current insurance program, and identify any gaps in coverage. Our risk management team can help ensure your preventative measures are adequate and give suggestions for further risk assessment. In today's world, planning ahead for all possible risks is the only way to protect your business. Connect with our experts for more information on our services.