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Top Tips Part V – Tips for Employers in Preventing/Addressing Workplace Violence

Prevention

Take all reports of threats and potential violence seriously!  Don’t ignore a situation with inaction, but be cautious when implementing preventative steps so that fixing the situation does not inadvertently make it worse.

1. Ensure that you have adequate physical security and restricted or controlled access (e.g., lighting, mandatory use of ID’s, use of electronic access badges, security cameras, etc.).  Enforce all security measures and protocols.2. Determine the extent to which your workplace location may be vulnerable:

a. Is open to the public

b. Has valuable property (e.g., cash, small valuables, etc.)

c. Is isolated or work areas within the location are isolated

d. Is open at unusual hours (e.g., night time, etc.)

e. Is in high crime area

f. Has parking that is unsecured, isolated, dark, or not adjacent

3. Develop, implement, and provide training on a “zero tolerance” workplace violence policy (including training on types and levels of violence, warning signs, reporting procedures, and tips for employees).4. Establish a multi-disciplinary “violence response team” that: (a) includes appropriate internal expertise (e.g., HR, safety/risk management, operations, legal, media/communications, etc.); (b) develops strong relationships with outside expertise (e.g., psychologist/psychiatrist, law enforcement, security companies, domestic violence shelters, etc.); (c) develops protocols for alerting the entire team to a potentially violent situation so that it can be immediately addressed; and (d) periodically reviews information from violent and potentially violent situations to determine what process improvements need to be implemented going forward;   5. Offer employee assistance programs and resources (such as lunchtime support groups, information about local shelters and resources, referrals to criminal justice system, etc.).

Intervention

Different intervention and remedial measures may be needed for different types of situations (e.g., domestic violence, disgruntled employee or former employee, criminals, etc.).  One size does not fit all when addressing workplace violence situations.

1. Immediately call law enforcement if a weapon is present and use of it is threatened.  If it can be done safely, move all employees to safe locations and as far away from the threat as possible.2. Be sensitive and empathic when talking to suspected victims.3. Provide additional security measures if there is a threat or if potential violence may be likely (examples include walking employees to their cars, ensuring doors are always locked and securely shut, staggering work start or end times, providing paid time off, providing extended leave with or without pay, etc.).4. Consider more expansive assistance if the safety of others in the workplace may be in jeopardy simply by work association with a victim (e.g., provide relocation assistance, terminate employment of victim and provide severance pay, provide outplacement services, provide other financial assistance, etc.).5. Consult with outside experts before suggesting that the victim obtain a restraining order or a “no contact” order from a court.  Sometimes the victim notifies the perpetrator that it was the employer who suggested such steps, and the perpetrator then adds the employer (particularly supervisors and HR) to his/her target list out of anger.