What employers need to know to prevent workplace violence

Workforce | 20 Mar, 2015 | Shayna Balch
Author Shayna Balch is a partner at Fisher & Phillips LLP.

Author Shayna Balch is a partner at Fisher & Phillips LLP.

Stories of workplace violence — from Mesa to Paris and just about every city in between — seem to be never ending. Which begs the question, “How can employers work to keep their workplaces safe?” While there are no ironclad solutions for preventing all workplace violence, employers and employees alike can take a number of proactive measures to keep violence at bay.

1. Create a no-violence action plan

Having a preventative plan in place, while providing all of your employees with information on how to deal with workplace violence, is essential when trying to curb violent situations from arising. Work with your HR team to draft a detailed policy on how your company defines workplace violence and how employees should and should not react to all violent situations. It is also recommended that you hold a practice drill each quarter so that people know what to do and where to go in case of specific emergencies. Distributing a step-by-step process of what to do, should a violet situation erupt, at each telephone and public gathering place throughout the building is another preventative measure to consider.

2. Consider additional security measures

As we’ve continually seen, workplace violence can happen anywhere and at any time. Attacks can be inflicted by someone who works for your organization or by an outside perpetrator who is mentally ill or has an ax to grind. Whatever the case, implementing some additional security measures can work to solve a host of problems. Work with an outside security consultant to determine what preventative resources might work best for your organization. Everything from additional cameras and security guards to self-defense training can be considered.

3. Prohibit firearms

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 1992 to 2010, there were 13,827 reported workplace homicide victims in the United States, averaging more than 700 victims per year. Unfortunately, a number of those homicides were committed with a firearm. Under Arizona state law, an employer may not institute a policy that restricts employees from lawfully storing a firearm if the firearm is both 1) in the employee’s locked and privately owned motor vehicle or in a locked compartment on the person’s privately owned motorcycle and 2) not visible from the outside of the motor vehicle. In other words, you can prohibit individuals from bringing weapons into your place of work, but you cannot prevent employees from having a legally possessed firearm in their privately owned motor vehicle for purposes of storage and/or transportation. Create a policy that incorporates these laws but still works to keep guns away from your employees.

4. Help manage workplace stress

Workplace demands and societal pressures can often get the best of an employee’s psyche, occasionally resulting in feelings of negativity and employer mistrust. The good news is that if you can provide your employees with the resources to deal with stress, it may benefit your organization a great deal. It is also helpful to create an environment in which employees are able to take adequate breaks for eating and occasional socializing. Encourage stretch breaks or suggest that the next weekly meeting take place during a walk around the building as opposed to in the boardroom. Most importantly, let your employees know that managing stress is something that your company encourages and supports on a consistent basis.

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