Violence in the Workplace: Coming to a Location Near You?

Jan. 1, 2020
OVERLAND PARK, KS - "Former employee shoots and kills supervisor and two co-workers." "Business owner killed in late-night robbery." Workplace violence is on the rise. Just this past week, we've seen the reports in the newspapers and on TV of how vio
MASTERING MANAGEMENTViolence in the Workplace: 
Coming to a Location Near You?
OVERLAND PARK, KS - "Former employee shoots and kills supervisor and two co-workers." "Business owner killed in late-night robbery."  Workplace violence is on the rise. Just this past week, we've seen the reports in the newspapers and on TV of how violence can touch our lives. Workplace injury statistics clearly reflect this trend. But did you know that the No. 1 cause of death for women at work is homicide? Or that studies conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) show that homicide is the third-leading cause of occupational death overall? Did you know that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published "Recommendations for Workplace Violence Prevention Programs in Late-Night Retail Establishments?"  Bottom line, this is a problem that must be taken seriously by each and every employer, says Zurich North American Insurance Co. Understanding the problem  The state of California identified three types of workplace violence "events" in the CA/OSHA publication titled "Guidelines for Workplace Security": Type I - The agent (attacker) has no relationship to the workplace, usually on premises only to commit a robbery or other criminal act. Type II - The agent is either the recipient or the object of a service provided by the affected workplace or the victim. This is a current or former client, customer, patient or passenger. Type III - The agent has an employment-related involvement with the workplace employee. The attacker may also be a spouse, lover, relative, friend or other person who has a dispute with an employee.  With these facts in mind, it becomes evident that the threat can come from outside the company or from within. The goal is to have a plan in place, train your employees what to do in the event of an attack, and be prepared for each type of incident. Are you at risk? NIOSH has identified some common risk factors for violence in retail establishments. Among them are:  * Contact with the public. * Exchange of money.  * Working late night or early morning hours.  * Working in high-crime areas.  Anything sound familiar? Is your business subject to any of these conditions? If the answer is yes, then your company may be at increased risk for workplace violence. Prevention measures  Zurich recommends that business owners investigate implementing as many of these recommendations that make sense for their specific situation:Hiring policies * Hiring the best people available is a good long-term investment.  * Conduct criminal/civil background investigations, check references and drug screen all job applicants. NOTE: This information must be kept confidential.  * Termination policies should be well-defined, clearly understood by employees and adhered to by management.  * Implement an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). There are many vendors available that will provide this service to employees. The EAP should include a toll-free telephone number for employees to seek assistance with harassment, substance abuse, domestic violence or other issues. Physical security  * Improve visibility from inside and outside the business. Large windows that are unobstructed by shrubs, trees or signs will allow employees to see outside activity, and the local police to see inside.  * Exterior lighting is important. A well-lit building makes it difficult for a perpetrator to enter or leave undetected during the workday or after-hours.  * Install video surveillance equipment, and post signs announcing that it is in use. A closed-circuit TV monitoring the cash register area should be installed.  * If your business does a large volume of cash transactions, install a drop safe and post signs stating that cash on hand is limited to a small amount.  * Use door detectors that will announce to employees that someone is entering the business.  * Put height markers on exit doors to help employees and other witnesses provide a better description of perpetrators.  * Keep all doors used for deliveries, trash disposal, etc., locked when not in use. Public doors should be kept locked until business hours begin and immediately after closing. Management issues * Implement a zero-tolerance program for workplace violence. The definition of workplace violence should include acts of assault, aggression, threats and intimidation.  * Develop and implement a crisis response plan. It should include procedures for dealing with the three types of workplace violence "events" described above.  * Train employees and management to identify, be alert to and promptly report warning signs of potential violence.  * Obtain area crime reports from the local police department to monitor crime trends.  * Violence prevention activities should become part of everyday work. Employees and management should check exterior lights, closed-circuit surveillance equipment, locks, doors and windows on a regular basis.  * Don't forget to train parts drivers, sales staff who conduct test rides, couriers and other delivery personnel about threats, safety precautions and response procedures specific to their duties.  OSHA's "General Duty Clause" states that the employer is responsible for providing a safe workplace. Violence prevention in the workplace isn't just a moral obligation, it is a legal one. (Source: Zurich American Insurance Co.)

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