Violence in the Workplace: An Overview of Prevention Strategies

Preventing Workplace Violence

Nearly 2,000,000 cases per year, with many more going unreported. Workplace violence is an ongoing concern, and has come to the forefront after the recent events in Virginia, when a former news station employee killed a reporter and cameraman on the air. Or when an executive last year was demoted and shot the company CEO. Or the loan store clerk whose ex-boyfriend entered and committed a murder-suicide in broad daylight.

The fourth-leading cause of occupational injuries in the United States, and the number one cause for death for women in the workplace, workplace violence can strike anywhere, anytime, and no one is immune—customers, employees, clients, visitors, or executives.

The truth is, however, that workplace violence is much more than just homicides in the workplace.

Workplace violence, according to OSHA, is “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide.”

To note, violence and other injuries by persons or animals accounted for 4 percent of the cases in the private sector in 2013, with a rate of 4.2 cases per 10,000 full-time workers.

Everyone is at risk, but those at higher risk for violence are workers who exchange money with the public, delivery drivers, healthcare professionals, public service workers, customer service agents, law enforcement personnel, and those who work alone or in small groups.

But what can be done to reduce the hazards and minimize the likelihood for workplace violence?

As highlighted in the recent OSHA release, Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers, the following five factors should be included in any industry as the “building blocks for developing an effective workplace violence prevention program:”

  • Management Commitment and Worker Participation—OSHA deems management responsible for controlling hazards by, among other things, urging all levels of management to become deeply involved in all aspects of the workplace violence prevention program, and worker participation should be required because workers can help identify and assess workplace hazards;
  • Worksite Analysis and Hazard Identification—management and workers are called upon to work together to assess records, existing procedures, and operations for jobs, employee surveys, and workplace security analyses;
  • Hazard Prevention and Control—after the worksite analysis is complete, employers should take appropriate steps to prevent or control the identified hazards and periodically evaluate the effectiveness of the chosen controls and improve, expand, or update them, as needed;
  • Safety and Health Training—all workers (including contractors and temporary employees) should receive training on the workplace violence prevention program at least annually and, in particularly high-risk settings, as often as monthly or quarterly to effectively reach and inform all workers; and
  • Recordkeeping and Program Evaluation—OSHA logs of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA Form 300), worker injury reports, information regarding patients with a history of violence, and other documents reflecting trends or patterns at the workplace should be studied and the effectiveness of the workplace violence prevention program should be frequently evaluated and improved, as necessary.

Although there is no official standard for workplace violence, preventing workplace violence should still be a top priority. Epstein Becker Green’s OSHA Law Update Blog notes that employers could be cited for violations of the OSHA General Duty Clause or failing to provide workers with a safe and healthy work environment free from hazards that:

  • Are recognized by the employer or the employer’s industry;
  • Have the potential for causing death or serious physical harm; and
  • May be abated by feasible means.

As an employer, it is your job to minimize risk in the workplace for your employees. Let us help you recognize not only the increases in safety that come with an effective safety management system, but the improvements to productivity, engagement, and profitability that come from safe working environments.

Preventing workplace violence is only one part of an effective safety management system. Learn how we can help your organization recognize its complete Return on Safety™ by calling us for a complete SMS Evaluation—a 30-point inspection of your current safety program which recognizes any gaps and shows you how to minimize any risk.

If you need immediate help, contact our safety helpline at 1-866-70-SAFE-T (707-2338)