Reducing the Hazards of Workplace Violence
Reducing the Hazards of Workplace Violence
Each year there are over two million people who fall victim to workplace violence in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, of the 4,679 fatal workplace injuries that occurred in the United States in 2014, there were 749 workplace homicides (United States Department of Labor, 2015). Any act or threat of intimidation, physical violence, harassment, or other threatening or disruptive behavior that happens at a place of business is considered to be workplace violence (Occupational Safety and Health Administration, n.d.). Workplace violence can strike anywhere and can happen to anyone. Even the most respectful environment could experience incidents of workplace violence. It is naive to think that it will not happen within our business. What policies and procedures do we have in place to protect ourselves and our employees from workplace violence? What would we do if an instance of workplace violence were to occur at PFC? In my opinion, this is very worrisome especially given the fact that Iowa allows registered gun owners to conceal and carry weapons. The possibility that any one of our employees could be carrying a concealed weapon at work is very unsettling. Without posted signs and a specific policy in place which prohibits carrying a weapon on our property, we are not taking a proactive stance towards reducing the hazards of workplace violence. As a company, it is our responsibility to establish a workplace violence policy and prevention program to ensure the safety of our employees. In addition to establishing a zero tolerance policy for workplace violence, it is also important to assemble an Emergency Management Team to manage annual training, drills, and implementation of the program.
According to Corporal Cory Determan, the type of workplace violence which is responsible for the majority of fatal injuries is violence by strangers, which accounts for 75-90% of all workplace violence occurrences. The stranger enters the business with the intention of robbing it or conducting some other criminal act and something goes wrong, leading him to act even more irrationally (Determan, 2016).
Another type of workplace violence is violence by customers or clients. The assailant may be a current or former customer or client. In this instance, the violence could be due to project delays, reporting issues, or even the disgruntled consumer who is not receiving her rebate because the requirements were not met.
Violence by coworkers is also a type of workplace violence. In this instance, the employee may be experiencing psychological problems or suffering from family stress. She could also be seeking revenge because she feels that she has been treated unfairly, didn’t receive the raise or promotion that she thought that they deserved, or because of criticism that she received regarding her performance (Bruce & Nowlin, 2011).
The last type of workplace violence is violence by personal relations. These relationships could include a current or former spouse, lover, friend, relative, or acquaintance. In instances like this the assailant will confront the employee that they have had a personal relationship with, often being motivated by difficulties in the relationship.
As the illustrations have shown, there are many situations that could lead to workplace violence by a coworker. It is imperative to be aware of the warning signs. If any questionable behavior is exhibited, we must respond in an empathetic, caring, and considerate manner while providing the employee with the help required.
Corporal Cory Determan came to PFC on March, 28 2016 to provide an assessment of our facility and conduct a presentation with departmental managers in regards to an Active Shooter situation. Corporal Determan is employed with the Camanche, Iowa police department and provides active shooter training to each school within Clinton County. During the presentation we watched the FBI video called “Run, Hide, Fight” and we also watched excerpts from the Columbine School shooting video. The Columbine video was very disconcerting; however, Corporal Determan stated that he includes this film in the training materials because he feels that it is very important to understand that no matter how much training or preparation a person has gone through, an active shooter situation is unpredictable. Each person will handle the situation differently, often not as planned or as trained.
During the presentation, he explained the A.L.I.C.E. initiative. The acronym A.L.I.C.E. stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, and evacuate. A.L.I.C.E. was first implemented after the 2012 shooting that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School. A.L.I.C.E. is now used as a training tool to inform and prepare individuals on how to safely and effectively respond to an active shooter situation. The A.L.I.C.E. initiative is an enhanced response to violent intruders and armed aggressors and has been endorsed by the US Department of Education, US Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Secret Service, and many others in the private sector. The A.L.I.C.E. initiative empowers staff to make decisions based upon the information available at their immediate disposal, their personal abilities, and the number of employees in their department. A.L.I.C.E. provides options for staff to think unconventionally while creating a disadvantage for the aggressor and by helping to ensure that the aggressor cannot predict a response. Each of these factors enhance the chances of survival (Determan, 2016).
Once a zero tolerance policy and prevention program against workplace violence has been established, Corporal Determan will return to help provide training for each employee. When employee training has been completed we will begin preparing employees by creating live scenarios while practicing evacuation procedures. Corporal Determan stated that by completing the live training it will help to prepare employees for a variety of situations. After each scenario, he will provide his feedback in regards to how employees handled themselves. This feedback will provide the Emergency Management Team with insight of areas that require improvement.
Developing and implementing a workplace violence policy and prevention program sounds like a rather large undertaking; however, with proper research and training we will be able to create a comprehensive policy which includes all emergency procedures. The top priority in developing and implementing the workplace violence policy and prevention and program should be to establish a procedure for documenting incidents of violence. All employees should be trained in this procedure and feel empowered to report any concerns, incidents, or conduct that violate the policy. Employees who file legitimate reports should not be subject to any adverse action or retaliation under any circumstance. Implementation of the reporting procedure, prevention strategies, and the policy should be provided to all employees throughout the company. Another important factor is to assemble an Emergency Management Team which should include a representative from Human Resources as well as each of the department managers. The goal for the Emergency Management Team will be to train annually in workplace violence strategies and prevention, train PFC staff annually, conduct drills twice a year which include evacuation and lockdown procedures, serve as the go-to team for any staff member experiencing any form of workplace violence, assist staff to safety in case of emergency, and serve as first responders in the event of an emergency.
A common misconception as it relates to disaster situations is that “one size fits all”. This is far from the truth as each situation requires different handling methods. The documented policy should clearly state that we maintain a zero-tolerance for workplace violence of any kind. It should also clearly define the disciplinary action that will be taken if an employee were to engage in any conduct that violates the policy, emergency procedures, evacuation procedures, and lockdown procedures. It should also direct how the Emergency Management Team is to be assembled, who is responsible for immediate care, and employee counseling. After all documentation has been written and shared with employees, training sessions should be scheduled, followed by implementation. By taking a proactive stance towards reducing the hazards of workplace violence it shows that we are committed to maintaining a safe, healthful, and efficient working environment where employees, visitors, contractors, clients, and on-site vendors are free from the threat of workplace violence.
Bruce, M. D., & Nowlin, W. A. (2011). Workplace Violence: Awareness, Prevention, and Response. Public Personnel Management, 293-308.
Determan, C. C. (2016, March 28). Active Shooter Training. (PFC, Interviewer)
Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (n.d.). Safety And Health Topics - workplace violence. Retrieved from Occupational Safety and Health Administration: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/workplaceviolence/index.html
United States Department of Labor. (2015, September 17). Bureau Of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from United States Department Of Labor Web Site: http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshcfoi1.htm#2014