8 Steps Management Can Take to Prevent Workplace Violence

Injuries or deaths due to workplace violence can result in some of the most expensive workers compensation claims. The prevention of workplace violence is a major concern for risk managers. The safety of the employees is paramount in all risk management programs. A secondary benefit of prevention of workplace violence is averting the resulting spike in workers compensation insurance cost when severe workplace violence does occur.
The best way to prevent workplace violence and the associated work comp cost is to be aware of the potential for violence and to take the necessary steps to stop it from occurring. All safety programs should have measures designed to keep the workplace secured. Knowledge of how to recognize the potential for violence and the best ways to prevent violence should be a part of the job training of every employee. (WCxKit)
While non-employees – irate spouses, robbers, angry customers, etc. – can be the source of workplace violence, most incidents of violence in the workplace involves aggression by one employee against another employee or a group of employees. All employees can easily be taught to recognize inappropriate behavior (which leads to workplace violence) including:

1.      waving arms or fists

2.      excessive profanity

3.      screaming

4.      verbal abuse of others

5.      threats against people or property

6.      any behavior that intentionally endangers another person

7.      refusal to comply with a reasonable request

8.      intimidation, either verbally, physical closeness or gestures

9.      throwing objects

10.  intentionally damaging property

11.  stalking

12.  under the influence of alcohol or drugs

13.  When any of these actions occur, the inappropriate behavior must be immediately brought to management attention.

The absolute worst thing management of a company can do is to not address the inappropriate behavior with the individual who has displayed the bad behavior. The failure to address the inappropriate behavior gives the offender the wrong messages that (1) it is okay to act that way, and (2) there are no consequences for doing so. If management makes excuses for the perpetrator of bad behavior or takes the position that the inappropriate behavior is:

1.      “just the employee blowing off steam”, or

2.      “we don't have the time to deal with it right now”, or

3.      “let's not get all the other employees stirred up over one little incident”, or

4.      “we cannot discipline him, or fire him without getting an EEOC  complaint”, or

5.      “the (victim) had it coming”

6.       It is only a matter of time until the inappropriate behavior escalates into violence with someone getting hurt or killed. 

Steps management can take with all employees to prevent or address disruptive incidents include:

1.      Having open communications about what is not acceptable,

2.      Providing ways for employees to bring unresolved issues to managements attention,

3.      Intervening promptly in any conflict situation

4.      Having both the aggressor and the other person(s) to provide the supervisor or manager with their understanding of the problem

5.      Not allowing the aggressor to minimize the problem by declaring “it's nothing” or “I just lost my temper”

6.      Setting precise expectations for what is acceptable and not acceptable

 7.      Obtaining outside assistance (police, counseling, union, etc.) if needed

8.      Monitoring after the situation to verify appropriate behavior continues

When inappropriate behavior or the threat of workplace violence is known to management, the issues must be quickly and appropriately addressed. All supervisors and managers should be trained in conflict management skills including:

1.      To try to defuse the situation by responding calmly

2.      To not take the bad behavior personally

3.      To ask questions that show an interest in resolving the problem without degrading the aggressor

4.      To understand and summarize the aggressors concerns or issues

5.      To ask the aggressor to stop the inappropriate behavior with a warning of the consequence if the inappropriate behavior continues

6.      To discipline or terminate the aggressor

7.      To never escalate the situation by responding with physical force

If a situation does get out of hand with specific threats of violence, or the aggressor has a weapon or a physical assault occurs, the supervisor or manager should not attempt to subdue to aggressor. The police should be called immediately – 9-1-1, in most jurisdictions. The supervisor or manager should attempt to get themselves and all other employees to safety. If you have a private security guard or private security force they should also be notified immediately. (WCxKit)
Recognizing the inappropriate behaviors that often precedes violence then dealing with the issue is the best way to prevent violence from occurring in the workplace. All supervisors and managers should know what to do in the event of inappropriate behavior and what to do if violence in the workplace does occur. The U. S. Department of Labor has on its OSHA website a large amount of information you can access on preventing workplace violence.

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker and website publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. www.LowerWC.com
RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com .

WORK COMP CALCULATOR:   http://www.LowerWC.com/calculator.php
WC GROUP:  http://www.linkedin.com/groups?homeNewMember=&gid=1922050/
Workers Comp Resource Center Newsletter

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

©2010 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact

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