Workplace Violence: Proactive Efforts Foster Safe, Productive Work Environments
Danielle M. Winkle
No one thinks their factory or warehouse will be the setting for work-related violence. Workplace shootings by disgruntled employees are continually in the news, especially if they result in a fatality. This violence, while serious, is relatively infrequent. More common are threats, bullying, emotional abuse, intimidation and assaults. However, if left unchecked, these less severe violent behaviors can escalate into more serious situations.
Exact data on the extent of workplace violence is difficult to obtain, because many lesser crimes go unreported. However, the Department of Justice estimates that workplace violence costs U.S. businesses billions of dollars from lost work time, reduced productivity, employee turnover, medical costs, workers’ compensation expense and disability insurance premiums, and legal and security expenses.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to provide a workplace free from hazards that cause harm or death. Some states and localities have similar laws. Most employers think of hazards that are directly related to an employee’s task, such as wearing safety goggles or a hard hat. However, bullying, threats, intimidation and emotional abuse are hazards to be addressed as well. So, what are you doing to protect your workers from violence in the workplace?
Violence Comes in Many Forms
Education is the first step toward reducing the threat of violence in your factory or warehouse. Management needs to understand the different types of workplace violence. Management also needs to understand possible perpetrations of the violence.
Sometimes, the perpetrator has no relationship to your business. Other crimes are perpetrated by someone related to your company, typically a customer, employee or contractor.
Proactive Policies Reduce Opportunities
An outside advisor can help familiarize you with the types of workplace violence and suggest specific steps to minimize the opportunities for violence to occur. For instance, you might use locks, fences, guards and ID badges that limit access points for thieves, disgruntled drivers or jealous spouses. In addition, exterior areas and parking lots should be well lit. Closed-circuit cameras can be installed to let employees know their actions will not go unobserved. The videos from such cameras should be reviewed.
You can also train workers to recognize potentially violent situations and implement a workplace violence prevention policy. The policy should prohibit weapons in the workplace and make clear that you reserve the right to search lockers or other areas employees use.
Just as important are the pre-employment screening processes you perform to create a non-hostile work environment. Start by screening all prospective employees and running background checks to identify those with histories of violence. Background checks and employment verifications can uncover past problems and discrepancies before they become your problems.
Help from Trusted Advisors
An assembled workforce is one of your most valuable assets, although it does not appear on your balance sheet. The first step in protecting it is an objective risk assessment.
Many precautionary measures designed to reduce the risk of workplace violence — such as locks, training and background checks — coincide with the key elements of strong internal control programs, which help protect all assets from internal and external threats. For help identifying risks to create a safer, more productive workplace, contact Danielle Winkle at email@example.com or call her at 312.670.7444. You can also visit orba.com to read more about our Manufacturing and Distribution Group.