WHAT IS WORKPLACE VIOLENCE?
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the worksite. It ranges from threats and verbal or emotional abuse and even homicide.
There are some situations and career paths that increase the chances of workplace violence. They include:
- Jobs involving exchange of money with the public. Some examples are bank tellers, cashiers at supermarkets, etc.
- Working with volatile or unstable people. This includes psychiatric patients, alcoholics, people with anger management problems, etc.
- Working in isolated areas.
- Providing service and care. The most common victims here are health workers and hotel staff.
- Working where alcohol is served.
- Where worksite is located at a high crime rate zone.
- Gender: women are more likely to be victims of workplace violence, as they are perceived to be weaker or helpless by the perpetrator.
- Religious affinity.
- Race/ skin color.
- Delivery/ home service workers
- Customer serve agents
- Public service workers
- Law enforcement officers
TYPES OF WORKPLACE VIOLENCE
According to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), workplace violence can be classified into four types:
- CRIMINAL INTENT: the perpetrator has no legitimate relationship with the worksite, business or employees and is only present for the perpetuation of a crime. E.g. robbery, shoplifting, acts of terrorism, active shooting (could be religious, race political affiliation inclined).
- CUSTOMER- CLIENT: this arises between clients, spouses/visitors of clients, with the victim usually the care/ service provider. This type of violence is prevalent in the healthcare sector, a customer service agent, or where alcohol is served. Former clients or proposed clients can also be perpetrators. It is not news, however, that employees also violate clients, which is unprofessional and against all code of ethics.
- WORKER-WORKER: the perpetrator has an employment relationship with the worksite or business and includes former employee, contract staff, full employees, and even vendors of the business. It can also be between two members of staff of differing grade levels or co-workers at the same level or o immediate workspace/ department.
- DOMESTIC RELATIONSHIP: spouses, parents, guardians, relatives, etc. visiting the worksite of an employee for the sole purpose of assaulting or violating them is not uncommon. This situation is common where one of the parties is addicted to alcohol, hard drugs, or a narcissist.
WARNING SIGNS OF A POTENTIALLY VIOLENT EMPLOYEE
- Unexplained increase in absenteeism
- Noticeable decrease in attention to hygiene and appearance
- Resistance or overreaction to change in company policy and procedure
- Noticeably unstable emotional response
- Explosive outbursts of anger or rage without provocation
- Suicidal comments
- Increasingly talks about problems faced at home
- Emphasize with people committing violence
- Increase in interest/ passing of unsolicited comment about the use of firearms, violence, and other dangerous weapons for committing violent crimes/.
CONDITIONS ENABLING WORKPLACE VIOLENCE
- High stress at the worksite
- Lack of appropriate training of employees, including managers and supervisors of conflict management and resolution.
- Lack of appropriate management protocols for disciplinary action.
- Individuals with a history of violent behavior.
- Carry out intensive background checks before employment.
STEPS TO REDUCE OCCURRENCE OF WORKPLACE VIOLENCE
- Create a zero-tolerance to violence policy
- Create an effective line of communication and complaint.
- Conduct regular training and awareness session for employees. The session should include; how to deescalate a violent or potentially violent situation, how the use the FBI recommended system of Run, Hide and Fight, emergency numbers and how to raise alarms, etc.
- Encourage employees to accept individual differences and conflict management/ resolution.
- Prevent worker on worker conflict from turning into harassment by immediately taking action, with the erring party getting disciplined.
- Communicate what qualifies as unacceptable behavior in the workplace and the consequence of indulging. Clearly define what is considered as workplace violence and communicate the same clearly to all members of staff, customers, clients, and family members, visitors.
- Encourage all members of staff to report violent situations or apparent warning signs- SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING.
- Reduce the risk associated with handling company assets. E.g. use an online payment platform to reduce the risk of robbery, install a security door, use physical security to serve as a deterrent to intruders, etc.
- Train employees to recognize warning signs.
- Evaluate the worksite’s vulnerability to violence i.e. access control, surveillance, and response to the threat.
- Analyze track record of violence at the worksite, noting the location, frequency, and persons involved.
- Inspect worksite regularly to identify risk factors and how to deescalate them.
- Minimize public access to worksite and employees.
- Develop a workplace prevention plan. The plan should consider the following:
- Management’s commitment and employee participation
- Worksite analysis to determine present hazards, vulnerability, risk of hostile attack, and security loopholes, or concerns.
- Hazard prevention and control
- Health and safety training
- Record keeping: visitors control, access control, and surveillance
- Know warning signs
- Recognizing risky situations, how to deescalate them, how to confront them: RUN, HIDE, FIGHT.
- Mental illness
- “How to prevent workplace violence: 7 steps to take now” www.edgepointlearning.com
- “How to prevent workplace violence in 10 ways” www.alicetraining.com
- “Types of workplace violence” www.cdc.gov/WPVHC/Nurses/Courses/Slide/Unit1-5
- “Understanding workplace violence prevention and response” www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/toolkits/pages/workplace-violence-prevention-and-responmse.aspx
- “Mitigating violence in the workplace five focus areas” www.calhospital,org
- “Risk mitigation and workplace violence prevention” www.pinkerton.com