Preventing Violence in the Workplace
Violence in the workplace is a serious safety and health issue. Its most extreme form, homicide, is the fourth-leading cause of fatal occupational injury in the United States.
Like it or not, workplace violence is becoming more and more common these days.
Some of it is preventable and some of it isn't, but either way you have an important role to play in reducing violence in your workplace. How? By thinking about how your business will respond to various forms of violence before they occur.
Fortunately there are a number of proactive, yet simple steps you can take to minimize the risk of violent behavior in your company. The manner in which you decide to implement these steps can vary, however the key is to have mechanisms in place that address the following issues.
Define Violent Behavior
The first step in creating a safe workplace is to define specific actions and behaviors that are not acceptable. In general, violent behavior is defined as any activity, verbal threat, or action that endangers the safety of any individual or inhibits them from performing normal functions and activities. It is important to note that violence isn't always physical. Verbal confrontations can also be considered violent and should be avoided at all costs in the workplace if for no other reason than to de-escalate tense situations.
Implement Preventative Measures
Conflict and stress are a fact of life in small business. However, unresolved conflicts and poor communication are hallmarks of workplace violence. By equipping your employees to cope with stress, and providing them with avenues to improve communication and resolve conflicts you can greatly reduce the possibility that minor disagreements will erupt into full-blown violent episodes. If you need help doing this, you might want to consider launching an employee assistance or wellness program that deals with stress management, conflict resolution, and related issues. As the employer, preventative measures will incur a few added expenses for the business. But the alternative - unresolved conflict that escalates into violent and potentially dangerous behavior - will be even more costly.
Deal with Conflict
Because unresolved conflict often culminates in violent behavior, it's worth your time to create an internal process for resolving conflicts when they occur. The conflict resolution process should be documented and communicated throughout the organization. If your in-house efforts to resolve a conflict are unsuccessful, you should be prepared to bring in a professional mediator or conflict resolution specialist rather than crossing your fingers and hoping the problem will simply disappear over time.
Develop a Response Plan
If the worst case scenario occurs and your workplace experiences a violent incident that threatens the safety of your staff, a well-thought out response plan literally becomes a life and death issue. Employees should be briefed ahead of time that in an emergency situation, the first response is to call 911 and get to a safe place as soon as possible. Also, employees should be discouraged from attempting to subdue violent individuals themselves and instead wait for the authorities to arrive (if possible).
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