The Workplace Violence Research Institute estimates that business owners nationwide lose $36 billion annually from the effects of workplace violence, according to a report in

Often, employers have not defined workplace violence, and are unsure of what role they should take. The Bureau of Labor Statistic’s2005 Workplace Violence Prevention Reportindicates that more than 70 percent of U.S. workplaces have no formal program or policy that addresses workplace violence.

Employers can take the following measures to help reduce hazards that are likely to encourage workplace violence, according to the report:

Diligent hiring and supervision— Conduct a criminal background check on applicants. Be certain, however, that the scope of the background check on the employee does not run against laws that protect employees’ privacy, such as the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Create a threat management team— Members can include professionals from human resources, the legal department, outside counsel, upper management, security, employee assistance program representatives, front line supervisors, and representative employees.

Assess vulnerabilities on a regular basis— Starting places for security audits include workers’ compensation records, employee disciplinary files, OSHA reports, security reports, and personnel files.

Adopt violence prevention policies— At all times, the policy should be sensitive to and protect the confidentiality of victims. In addition, the policy should include referrals to local resources for victims of violence.

Conduct regular training— All employees should understand workplace violence principles, organizational policies, warning signs of violence, and proper response and neutralizing techniques. Upper management should receive additional training on threat management and security implementation.

Fire respectfully— Conducting terminations with respect and dignity can decrease tensions at a very emotional point in the employee’s life. Naturally, if an employee already has exhibited violent tendencies, it is unwise to invite the employee in for an exit interview and he may need to be accompanied by security if returning to the building to gather personal belongings.

Banning weapons— There are many pragmatic reasons for adopting a policy banning weapons in the workplace. A May 2005 study published in theAmerican Journal of Public Healthfound that workplaces where guns were permitted were five to seven times more likely to be the site of a workplace homicide.