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5 Tips to Address and Prevent Workplace Violence

November 21, 2019

Laura L. Rubenstein

According to a 2019 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) study, about 50% of HR professionals said their organizations had experienced workplace violence at some point. This figure is up from a reported 36% in 2012. However, despite the reports of workplace violence, less than half of those surveyed reported having no programs in place to prevent violence or trainings to respond to threats of workplace violence.

Most employers address violent threats on a case-by-case basis without a formal assessment process. While each incident is, sadly, unique, the best time to plan for violence is before it happens. Here are some tips to ready your workplace:

1. Get a Risk Assessment.

   o Work with local law enforcement and building security to obtain a risk assessment of your workplace. They’ll check door locks, entrances/exits, blind spots, lighting, and other deficiencies that tend to be overlooked. They will also provide guidance on changes so your business can be better equipped to prevent or respond to an emergency.

2. Encourage Employees to Report Suspicious Activity.

    o Employees are the eyes and ears of any workplace. Those with boots on the ground tend to know information before those in command. Encourage employees to report suspicious activities ranging from employees who are under the influence, victims of domestic violence, unwanted visitors, or violence threatened against people or property.

3. Termination Meetings Should be Short.

    o When terminating a hostile employee, keep the meeting brief and calm. Do not elevate the volume of the conversation in the room and speak in a calm voice. Do not allow a

debate about the reasons behind the termination and ensure there is a plan to escort the terminated person from the building or worksite immediately.

4. Prevent Weapons in the Workplace.

    o While some workers regularly use knives, hammers, power tools or nail guns on the job, there is no need for these tools or other deadly weapons to enter into an office environment. Make sure policies are in place to have employees check their tools with security, store them in a secure locker, or lock them in their vehicle. Remind employees that the workplace does not permit weapons of any kind in the workplace.

5. Don’t be afraid to notify security or local law enforcement.

    o If you have any reason to believe that an employee about to be terminated will escalate to a violent encounter, have security at the ready or notify local law enforcement immediately and ask them to be in the area or on the premises depending on the situation.

It’s always the right time to be proactive. Start with a few small steps to protect your employees’ safety and your business. Everyone feels safer when plans are in place.

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