How Can Employers Address Workplace Violence?

In today’s climate, is the safety of your employees keeping you up at night? From COVID exposures to active shooters to cyber attacks, there are constant threats to businesses and people every day. As a business owner, HR professional, or leader, you are constantly having to evaluate solutions to mitigate the risk of workplace violence and protect your most valuable asset: your people.

Work Safety concept
Learn how to make your business a more difficult target for workplace violence.

Studies show that two-thirds of workplace attacks come from current employees. The U.S. Department of Justice has found violence to be the leading cause of fatal injuries at work with about 1,000 workplace homicides each year.

How do we effectively assess and mitigate this risk?

This means that your most valuable asset is also your greatest risk. The question is how do we effectively assess and mitigate this risk?  There are three key steps to preventing and dealing with workplace violence.

1. Create a plan.

Creating a plan or program allows you to examine where you are as an organization. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Do my employees know what to do in case of an incident?
  • Are we equipped to handle situations that may come up?
  • Do we have emergency kits available?
  • Do my employees know when to call 911?

Create channels for employees to report incidents.

If training is needed for your employees, this is the time to identify and close those gaps. Create channels for employees to report incidents and take all concerns seriously.

Workplace violence can be unpredictable and can’t always be avoided, but you can reduce the risk to your business and employees by planning ahead and being prepared to act swiftly when incidents are reported.

2. Develop a written policy and statement.

Develop a written policy and statement that demonstrates senior leadership’s commitment to handling threats and reported incidents, and informs all individuals related to your company—including customers and vendors—what behaviors are inappropriate and how incidents can be reported.

Demonstrate senior leadership’s commitment to handling threats.

The policy should be brief and should cover not only acts of physical violence, but also harassment, intimidation, and other disruptive behaviors.

  • Physical Violence
  • Harassment
  • Intimidation
  • Generally Disruptive Behavior

Once drafted, the policy should be reviewed by legal counsel for any potential legal implications.

3. Implement prevention strategies.

The final step is to implement prevention strategies to protect your business and staff from workplace violence. Some key methods of prevention that can mitigate risk for your business are:

Background Checks

Past behavior is a strong predictor of future behavior. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health as published by SHRM, knowing who you’re hiring is vital to placing employees in the right position.

Past behavior is a strong predictor of future behavior.

Robust pre-employment background screenings, including criminal history, motor vehicle, and former employer reference checks will help paint a clearer picture of who you are bringing into your organization.

Drug and Alcohol Testing

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, increased use of alcohol or illegal drugs is an indicator of potential violence by an employee. Establishing a pre-employment and ongoing drug and alcohol testing policy that promotes a drug-free workplace greatly reduces the risk of employees being at work while under the influence.

Increased drug and alcohol use is an indicator of potential violence.

Safety Training

As part of your established drug and alcohol testing policy, organizations should ensure all supervisors complete reasonable suspicion training so that they are equipped to identify the signs and symptoms of substance use in the workplace. To stay ahead of potential violence, supervisors should also be well-versed in current de-escalation techniques and able to confidently recognize key behavioral cues.

Above all, ensure all your employees are well-informed of the safety and security protocols you’ve implemented as a company.

Peer Reporting

Encouraging and empowering employees to report suspicious behavior when they see it further strengthens safety culture by growing it from within. Even the most robust leadership teams can miss things, so enlisting the eyes and ears of your entire organization greatly increases your capacity to take the appropriate actions and address situations before they are escalated to violence.

Enlist the eyes and ears of your entire organization.

Between tragic events that make headlines, to workplace harassment, bullying, assault, and verbal abuse, maintaining a safe workplace is a growing concern for employers in the U.S. Your ultimate goal as a leader, HR professional, or business owner is to protect your people from such events—and your first step to achieving that goal is to make your company a difficult target.

TEAM works with businesses nationwide to implement background screening and drug testing programs that give our clients confidence when hiring. Through a commitment to efficiency, quality, and expertise, TEAM can build an employee screening program that is tailored to fit your needs and allow you to focus on what’s important—maintaining the safety of your employees and making the best hiring decisions possible.