The Achiever Newsletter
Violence in the Workplace: A Growing Concern
By Laura Huggler
"That would never happen here at our company!"
Or could it?
In a study conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), murder was identified as the third leading cause of death in the workplace, following motor vehicle crashes and machine injuries. The study examined workplace deaths from 1980 to 1989 and five states were identified as having murder as the leading cause of workplace death, one of which was Michigan.
What can an employer do to protect their employees and their business from a potentially violent employee? There are several strategies that an employer can use to head off or minimize violent actions of an employee or a former employee.
First, be familiar with state laws that prohibit certain forms of verbal and/or behavioral threats. Be prepared to act within the scope of the law if threatened.
Develop a disaster or crisis management plan. Make sure that your management staff and employees are familiar with the plan and can execute it smoothly. Perform practice drills periodically.
Establish and enforce firm security procedures for all employees. Familiarize staff with security procedures pertaining to former employees, and be sure to update staff as to which employees no longer work for your company.
Create a written policy for dealing with both direct and veiled threats of violence from employees. This can be a part of your organization's work rule policy, which should contain clear language about the behaviors that will not be tolerated in the workplace.
Train all employees about the warning signs of violent behavior and how they should appropriately respond to a threat. Your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can be a very good training resource.
Finally, take any threat seriously and immediately investigate the incident. Be ready to respond with security measures and develop a referral source (such as an EAP) policy for assisting the individual with the threatening behavior.
In a recent survey, 71 percent of companies reported that they had no established policies regarding workplace violence. What's the cost to the employer for neglecting to respond to this trend towards violent acts in the workplace? Plenty.
Aside from legal costs, negligent hiring claims, insurance losses, sabotage, and destruction of company property, consider, too the other types of losses: damage to your company's reputation, loss of business, increased public relations expenses and the effect of violence on employee morale and productivity.
Clearly, as an employer, it's in your best interest to be prepared.
Laura Huggler is a human resources consultant associated with AchieveMax®, Inc. who specializes in human resources and workplace issues. She can be contacted at (517) 485-9095.
Publication Date: Fall 1994
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