The potential for workplace violence is a very real concern for companies in all industries and sectors. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), nearly 2 million U.S. workers report being the victims of workplace violence each year. What’s even more alarming is that most cases go unreported – so the actual number of incidents is likely much higher. Employers can do their part to reduce these numbers, however, by taking precautionary measures to create a safe working environment for their employees.
Workplace violence is defined as any physical assault or verbal threat that occurs in the workplace. Some incidents are minor, involving nothing more than one employee verbally threatening another. But other incidents of workplace violence are more severe, resulting in serious injury or even death. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 397 workers were killed in 2013 as a result of workplace violence, which translates into roughly 9% of all work-related deaths.
When workplace violence occurs, it can negatively impact the company in several different ways. For starters, the company may lose one or more hard-working employees. And even employees who weren’t involved in the incident may experience psychological damage as a result. Other ways that workplace violence can impact a company include damage to equipment and/or goods, lower productivity (employees watch the altercation instead of working), cost of worker’s compensation, lower morale, and the potential for lawsuits.
As an employer, you have a legal obligation to provide employees with a safe working environment, and failure to take the necessary precautions to ensure employees are safe could result in a fine or other penalties. OSHA was created several decades ago to promote safe working environments for the nation’s 120 million plus workers. OSHA specifically identifies “violence” as being a workplace hazard that employers must address.
Tips To Prevent Workplace Violence:
- Create a strict “zero tolerance” policy for violence, verbal assault and threats in the workplace.
- Encourage employees to report incidents of workplace violence.
- Install video surveillance systems in high-risk locations.
- Install alarm systems with security features like panic buttons, silent alarms, etc.
- Use curved mirrors to create greater visibility around corners and hallways.
- Perform comprehensive background checks on all job applicants.
- Perform follow-up background checks on existing employees.
- Install flood lights outside and in parking lots.
- Keep detailed records of all incidents of workplace violence.
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