Workplace violence is more than homicide — harassment is the leading form of on the job workplace violence, with 16 million workers being harassed each year. Other violent acts can include stalking, threats, inappropriate communication, trespassing, telephone and e-mail harassment, property defacing, and invasion of privacy and confining or restraining victims.

So what can you do?

1) Promote a clear anti-violence corporate policy by having top management address the issue in a formal written policy distributed and discussed with all employees.

This policy should establish the company’s zero tolerance position on violence and display strong commitment against violence.

Upper management must also provide the necessary resources (such as a budget and time to conduct meetings) to implement and carry out prevention programs.

2) Maintain effective grievance, security, and harassment policies. Companies that maintain these policies report fewer incidents of violence, less harassment, fewer stress-related illnesses, and more job satisfaction.

Empathetic management skills should be encouraged, as authoritarian leadership styles tend to promote higher rates of on-the-job violence.

3) Closely examine hiring practices. Examine employment applications and verify them for accuracy. Forty-three percent of all job applications contain misinformation.

Hire selectively or pre-screen applications for behavorial abnormalities. (To avoid creating other liabilities, be sure to comply with the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other employment standards.)

Background checks can be an invaluable tool for employers to use to receive important information from past employers, criminal and motor vehicle records, and credit reports. Psychological tests are another invaluable tool that employers can use to “weed out” those employees that have a propensity for violence.

5) Employees should be encouraged to report potentially violent situations or threats made against themselves or others.

6) Avoid keeping employees on the payroll if they are negligent with assigned responsibilities. Termination policies and procedures should be established. Terminate at the end of a shift; do not allow laid-off/fired employees to return to the work area.

A good way to help a terminated employee is to provide personal counseling for laid-off/fired employees.

7) Provide training to employees to assist them in identifying warning signs leading to potentially violent behavior.

Train management in threat assessment and de-escalation techniques.

8) Formal risk assessments (also called vulnerability audits) must be done by risk managers and safety professionals to determine their organizations’ potential for violence in the workplace.

Risk assessments can involve the use of employee surveys, focus groups, or existing committees. Also, analyze the work environment. Look at how employees treat each other and how management treats subordinates.

9) As a result of risk assessments, increase security measures as needed — improved interior/exterior lighting, alarms around the premises, interior and exterior surveillance cameras, establishment of restricted areas, door controls, and security guards.

Set up a contingency plan detailing how your company will respond during and after a violent incident.

Before a violent act occurs, a threat management team that reports directly to top management should be established. This team would be activated in the event of an incident.

10) Discuss your workplace violence exposure concerns with your insurance brokers to determine exactly which policies cover which exposures.

Source: ASSE Risk Management/Insurance Practice Specialty members