Combating Violence in the WorkplaceJohnny L. King
MAN 3301/Class 3274
19 June 2018
Combating Violence in the WorkplaceIs your workplace prone to violence? Dealing with conflict in the workplace can be very challenging. Wherever there are people, there will always be conflict. Managers, supervisors, coworkers or even you, must deal with managing conflicts. There are different management styles used to resolve conflicts in the workplace. Some conflicts require more intensive training or awareness to handle. This conflict is combating workplace violence. When you work with others 8-12 hours, 5-7 days a week, violence can take on many forms, such as, harassment, verbal abuse, a threat, a shove, or even a fist fight. In some extreme cases, the use of guns and other dangerous weapons can be involved, which are one of the leading causes of job-related deaths. It can affect you, co-workers, supervisors, managers and even visitors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), there were 4,679 fatal workplace injuries that occurred in the United States, 403 were workplace homicides in 2014 (2017). However, according to FBI statistics, “80% of active shooter incidents occur in the workplace (Ray, 2018)”. Whatever the cause may be or whomever the perpetrator is, workplace violence should be prohibited and never tolerated. Workplace violence can be combated by understanding the risk factors, prevention programs, training, and enforcement.
According to the United States Department of Labor, “nearly 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year (2017)”. Many cases of workplace violence go unreported. There are several factors that may increase a worker’s risk for workplace violence. In some instances, there may be some warning signs, but there’s no way to predict human behavior. All businesses should be aware of this threat of violence. According to Paul Viollis, president of the company Risk Control Strategies, writing in Business Insurance, “The vast majority of incidents of workplace violence are completely preventable if employees know what to look for and how to report it (US Legal, Inc., 2016)”. In some work environments, researchers have identified factors that may increase the risks of violence. One must understand that violence requires attention to more than just an actual physical attack. In many cases, employees ignore warning signs because they believe they are not important. All threats should be taken seriously and responded to immediately. Unfortunately, homicide is the one violent act in the workplace that gets the most attention. There are so many more violent incidents that have the same traumatic effects. Some of the incidents, but not limited to, are physical assault upon oneself or another person, intimidating others, harassing, stalking, verbal abuse including offensive language, threats (direct or indirect) and even physically aggressive acts, such as shaking fists at another person, kicking, pounding on desks, punching a wall, angrily jumping up and down (DOL, 2017). Another form of violence that is often over looked in the workplace, include acts of domestic violence. Domestic violence accounted for 27% of violent events in the workplace (2017). Even though domestic violence is a family matter, it spills over into the workplace. It is not rare for the perpetrator to show up at the victims’ place of employment and carry out acts of violence. There all also incidents where customers or clients carry out acts of violence towards and employee. Other incidents of violence in the workplace are carried out by calling in bomb threats through a landline or by physically placing devices in duty locations. Being aware of performance and/or conduct problems which may be warning signs of potential trouble is good prevention strategy.
In the light of combating violence through understanding the risk factors, having prevention programs in the workplace can be vital. As with most other risks, prevention of workplace violence begins with planning. Having an effective program is one of the major components regarding prevention. It is so important that all employees, including managers and supervisors, understand Department’s policy and program regarding workplace violence. The policies and programs should be discussed and be familiarized by all staff members, so they understand how to handle violent incidents. They should also, understand the consequences of such behavior. Maintaining an environment that minimizes negative feelings and hostilities towards co-workers is considered as one of the best prevention strategies, according to the US Department of Labor (2017). There’s no such thing as a perfect work environment amongst others, but it’s paramount that management take steps to help create a professional, healthy, and caring one. In conjunction, a good part of any strategy for preventing workplace violence is to maintain a secure and physically safe workplace. A variety of resources could be used to as security measure to help ensure safety. Some good resources are to have on-site security guards, employee identification measures, and strict visitor vetting processes. Other appropriate security measures such as closed camera systems and metal detectors. Another key measure is to establish procedures and avenues for employees to report threats, other violence or if there’s imminent danger. Not all violent incidents can be prevented, but to prevent workplace violence, a written program should incorporate the above areas and state clear goals and objectives suitable for the given workplace.
Now the you have a written plan in place, that just isn’t enough. Communication and training are critical components of any prevention strategy. Effective training can increase safety awareness and promotes safe behaviors that can help protect your employees. Educating employees on how they can protect themselves, report threats and incidents are essential. An effective training program informs and teaches employees on dealing with potentially violent clients, patients, co-workers and visitors should be provided. Methods of training should vary, based on the work environment and department needs. In general, video or computer-based training alone is not a sufficient method for delivering violence prevention training. Real-time scenario exercises should be practiced on a regular basis. This allows employees to gain firsthand knowledge and make them aware of performance and/or conduct problems which may be warning signs of potential trouble. With guidance of a training plan, it should detail the process of early intervention, which could give employees insight on how to defuse the initial situation and give the supervisor an opportunity to thoroughly review options for resolution. An excellent way to bring all employees to a higher level of awareness is to have a well-developed program (Frost, 2018). Continuous training also keeps your employees on the cutting edge. Putting all employees through regular workplace violence training ensures that all staff members at least have exposure to the information. A solid foundation of current and on-going workplace violence training is needed to keep up with all of the changes while simultaneously keeping the workplace running as smoothly and safely as possible.
According to an article written by Sue K. Willman, it stated that on September 8, 2011, Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), wrote the first directive to OSHA investigators on how and when to inspect workplaces and conduct investigations for workplace violence (2011). The directive applies to all workplaces. “OSHA has already fined employers for incidents of workplace violence, with more aggressive enforcement action by OSHA on its way (Willman, 2011)”. Employers, managers and supervisors are expected to take steps to prevent workplace violence. To avoid the possibility of fines and penalties, employers should take the necessary steps to prevent workplace violence. Employers also have a legal and ethical obligation to promote a work environment. They should ensure that the workplace is free from threats and violence. Violence can result in many different negative attributes such as lost work time, increased workers’ compensation payments, medical expenses, damaged employee morale and productivity and possible lawsuits. Like OSHA, that have directives to cover workplace violence, unions should regard workplace safety from violence, as an employee’s right. There are other contributors that play a valuable role in meeting the workplace violence challenge, such as the criminal justice agencies, medical, mental health, and social service communities. In addition, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, “legislators, policymakers, and the legal community might consider whether adjustments to gun laws, laws governing privacy and defamation, the Americans with Disabilities Act, wrongful termination, and other legal areas have to be made to facilitate preventive efforts while still protecting individual rights (Rugala, 2002)”. A zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence against or by their employees, is best protection employers can offer.
Workplace violence is now recognized as a specific category of violent crime that calls for distinct responses from employers, law enforcement, and the community. Clearly, violence in the workplace affects society as a whole. No one is immune, workplace violence can strike anywhere. Workplace violence creates ripples that go beyond what is done to a victim. It damages trust, community, and the sense of security every worker has a right to feel while on the job. Employers have an obligation to create a violence free and safe work environment. Even though violence in the workplace can’t be predicted, there are still ways to combat it by understanding the risk factors, establishing prevention programs, having effective training, and by enforcement.
Frost, S. (31 Jan. 2018) “The Importance of Training & Development in the Workplace.” Small Business – Chron.com, Chron.com, smallbusiness.chron.com/importance-training-development-workplace-10321.html.
Ray, L. (2018, April 20). Violence in the Workplace Statistics and Safety Tips for 2017. Retrieved from https://www.communityresponsesystems.com/blog/violence-in-the-workplace/Rugala, E. (2002). Issues in Response. Workplace Violence. Retrieved from https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/stats-services-publications..US Department of Labor. (2017, March 13). Safety and Health Topics | Workplace Violence | Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/workplaceviolence/US Legal, Inc. (2016). USLegal. Retrieved from https://definitions.uslegal.com/w/workplace-violence/Willman, S. (2011, September 18). Workplace Violence: OSHA Steps Up Enforcement Efforts. Retrieved from https://www.spencerfane.com/publication/workplace-violence-osha-steps-up-enforcement-efforts/