How can you protect your employees and lower the risk of legal action?
By Guy Beveridge
Director of Business Development, Strategos International
The story of workplace violence – from shootings to altercations – is that it’s not over when it’s over.
The greatest toll, without a doubt, are injuries and the loss of life. Nothing can erase this damage. Counseling and other compassionate company overtures are a start, but these are wounds a business alone cannot heal.
After the smoke clears and police take the bad guy away, the story is only beginning to unfold.
A business may have to close temporarily as the crime scene is examined. A few employees may resign and never return. The incident may receive global media attention – not the kind of press you wanted.
In addition, businesses that fail to demonstrate they took action to protect employees could face penalties from OSHA. The regulatory agency recently fined a business $207,000 for shortcomings related to workplace violence.
A fine could be on top of litigation from people involved in the incident. Adding fuel to the fire, an OSHA citing can give legal action more weight.
The best way to respond to these risks is to do everything within your power to stop violence from breaking out in your workplace. While we could write a multi-volume reference manual on this topic, you probably wouldn’t read it (and we can’t blame you). Instead, let’s look at seven practical steps toward a more secure workplace.
The good news: The steps you should take to protect your employees are the same you should take to shield yourself from fines and lawsuits.
#1 Analyze your workplace: risk assessment
In what ways is your workplace vulnerable to violence? This exercise is indispensable because you don’t want to create a solution for a non-existent problem. And you don’t want to miss a problem that desperately needs a solution. Since you don’t know what you don’t know, it’s often wise for an outside consultant to partner with you in assessing the risk.
#2 Create a supportive environment: outlets for outcry
Employees must know they have permission, and even an obligation, to share concerns about impending violence at their workplace – and even concerns about their homelife. Why? Because many domestic disputes spill over into the office.
#3 Offer communication and empathy training: how we talk to each other
Teaching employees how to communicate constructively can smother the seeds of workplace violence before they sprout.
#4 Establish a clear workplace violence policy: consistent, constant training
Employees must understand that violence will not be tolerated and everything that means. For example, threatening to harm someone is not acceptable, even though no one was actually hurt. No need to wait and see if the threat is genuine.
#5 Commit to a non-violent workplace: allocating resources – money and time
How much is a violence-free workplace worth?
“There’s an old saying that if you think safety is expensive, try an accident. Accidents cost a lot of money. And, not only in damage to plant and in claims for injury, but also in the loss of the company’s reputation.” –Trevor Kletz
#6 Train employees to recognize warning signs and stop violence before it starts
This won’t spook employees. It will empower them and demonstrate you care about their well being. Workplace violence will no longer be the unacknowledged elephant in the room.
#7 Create an action plan, share it with employees, and practice: plan to save lives and prevail over violence.
Putting it on paper isn’t enough. One training isn’t sufficient. Management and employees must universally understand and embrace the plan. Their lives may depend on it.
“An untested plan is only a strategy.” – Richard Gagnon
Active Threat: Workplace 911
An expert guide to preventing, preparing for and prevailing over attacks and work, school and church.