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Addressing Workplace Violence: Four Strategies for a Safer Environment

In its most recently published data, the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) found that in 2020, there were 392 homicides and more than 37,000 injuries in the workplace that resulted from intentional violence. Sales, transportation, management, construction and production are the five occupational groups with the highest rates of workplace homicide.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is beginning to place greater emphasis on employers’ efforts to prevent workplace violence. While OSHA does not have a specific standard on workplace violence for all employers, its General Duty Clause requires employers to provide a safe workplace for employees.

This article is going to focus on prevention and awareness of workplace violence. We will not get into the roles of human resources but we'll discuss strategies that all employees and employers should be aware of.

  1. Just like we go to the gym everyday we should train our mind and awareness as well. All workplaces should implement a workplace violence training program that includes situational awareness and behavioral threat assessment. Knowing that there are five types of workplace violence (criminal intent, customer/client, worker on worker-including vendors, intimate relationships, and ideological). Training can empower individuals to respond effectively. Training should not be a one and done. Offer periodic training to reinforce employees with the tools to combat potential violent situations and encounters.

  2. What are the site-security measures? The better the security measures the better prepared you are to thwart any workplace violence issues. Measures should include access and entry control management. Do you have a functional surveillance system? Do you need security patrol service? What's the after hours policy? Some employees may choose to get work done when the office is closed for business. Conduct regular site security assessments to identify vulnerabilities and make the necessary improvements.

  3. In dangerous or life-threatening situations, effective communication channels are critical. Employers should utilize emergency communication tools and systems to disseminate timely information to employees. Emergency notification systems, mobile apps, or panic buttons can be employed to quickly alert and guide employees during crises, ensuring their safety. Conduct regular drills and simulations to familiarize employees with emergency procedures and test the efficiency of communication channels. 

  4. Debrief all workplace violence incidents. This is a emotional but important process. What was the motive behind the event? Were there any system failures? If we learn from past incidents, no matter how tragic, we can adapt to new and improves safety It is vital to continuously evaluate and improve preventive strategies to ensure the ongoing safety and well-being of employees. Together, we can create workplaces where employees feel protected, respected, and can thrive without the fear of violence. By prioritizing safe environments, employers demonstrate their commitment to employee well-being and create a foundation for a harmonious and productive workplace. 

Lee Barnard is an A.L.I.V.E. Active Shooter instructor and teaches businesses on workplace violence. He is a Certified Protection Professional accredited by the American Society for Industrial Security and a member of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals. He has spent 20+ years in Law Enforcement and has a B.S. in Criminal Justice.


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