The latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that roughly 20,000 private sector employees experience injuries related to workplace violence each year. Furthermore, nearly 400 people die from workplace violence.
All employees deserve to feel safe on the job, regardless of their industry or position.
This article discusses the most common types of workplace violence, the importance of prevention and intervention, and tips for avoiding violent incidents at your company.
Most common types of workplace violence
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention divide workplace violence into the following categories:
Type 1 (Criminal Intent)
This type of violence involves a perpetrator with no relationship to the company or employees. The perpetrator usually commits a crime along with their violent act, such as robbery or trespassing.
Examples include a nurse being attacked in a hospital parking garage or a retail employee being injured during a robbery.
Type 2 (Client-on-Worker)
This example involves employees being harmed by customers, clients, or patients. It’s common in healthcare settings, such as emergency rooms or psychiatric hospitals, but it can also happen in other workplaces.
Type 3 (Worker-on-Worker)
Type 3 workplace violence occurs between coworkers. It includes bullying, verbal abuse, and emotional abuse and often gets perpetrated by higher-level employees toward those who are “lower on the totem pole.”
Type 4 (Personal Relationship)
This type of violence affects an employee and is perpetrated by someone with a personal relationship with them outside the workplace. An example could be an employee’s spouse showing up at their job and threatening them, harming them, etc.
Why workplace violence prevention and intervention strategies matter
Various acts fall under the umbrella of workplace violence. Without proper prevention and intervention protocols, employees at your company face a greater risk of being harmed (possibly fatally) on the job.
The following are some specific reasons why prevention and intervention strategies are so important:
- The threat of violence creates additional stress and anxiety for employees, interfering with their ability to focus and be productive on the job.
- When acts of violence take place at your company, you may experience serious legal issues (and expensive legal bills), especially if someone determines that you could have prevented the incident.
- If your business is associated with violent acts, your reputation may suffer, and people may hesitate to work with your company, hurting your bottom line.
- A business associated with workplace violence may also have a more challenging time attracting new employees, as job seekers may worry that they’ll put themselves in harm’s way.
Workplace violence affects everyone, from potential employees and seasoned veterans to customers and clients. You must take it seriously and do what you can to prevent it for the good of the business and your team.
How to prevent workplace violence
While there is no way to limit the threat of workplace violence entirely, you can take steps to mitigate the risk. Here are some specific strategies you can implement today:
Perform risk assessments
The first step to avoiding violence in the workplace is to assess your company’s current risk. A risk assessment evaluates the following:
- Specific risks (access to weapons, mental health challenges, sexual harassment, etc.)
- Nature of the work (location, employee proximity to customers, etc.)
- Employee risk factors (personality traits, hours worked, job responsibilities, etc.)
Consider partnering with a third-party organization to evaluate your business, identify potential threats, and discuss strategies for minimizing them.
Conduct background checks
You can start reducing the chances of violence occurring at your company before you even hire new employees. Conducting thorough background checks allows you to catch potential red flags and address them before you agree to bring someone who could be threatening into your company.
Clarify responsibilities and reporting protocols
In some cases, you can prevent violent acts in the workplace by establishing clear reporting protocols and making sure everyone knows to whom they should report.
During onboarding, all new employees should learn who they should talk to if they experience harassment or feel threatened or unsafe. They should also know whom that person reports to and what is done with their report.
For example, is the complaint documented? Is the person making them feel unsafe talked to (and if so, by whom)? Will there be any follow-up?
Establish lockdown procedures
A lockdown may go into effect if a suspicious person enters your facility or an employee is acting aggressively. A lockdown procedure clarifies where employees should go, what they should do (turn off lights, block doors, etc.), and how they will receive additional instructions (perhaps via text or through the company’s intercom system).
Offer ongoing training and support
A brief safety training during onboarding is not sufficient for preventing violence and keeping your employees safe. You must offer ongoing training and support, regularly updating protocols and sharing those updates to keep everyone on the same page.
Use quizzes or other comprehension tools to ensure employees are retaining information from the training sessions and can implement it when needed.
Install surveillance systems
Surveillance systems can provide peace of mind to you, your employees, and your customers. Knowing they’re being recorded can help them feel confident that there will be evidence backing them up if something goes awry. Surveillance systems can also deter attacks and harassment from happening in the first place.
Distribute safety devices
It’s also a good idea to distribute safety devices, especially to employees who frequently work alone or in dimly lit areas.
Safety devices may include a panic button solution or communication tools to help employees report problems and get help as quickly as possible. They may allow for automated check-ins, too, so employees can keep managers or supervisors aware of what’s happening and if they’re safe.
How to handle incidents of workplace violence
Workplace violence is a severe issue that interferes with all aspects of your business.
By taking steps to prevent it, you reduce the risk at your company and provide your employees with peace of mind. Use the above strategies as a starting point to create your company’s own unique protocols.