Who Is The Staff Safety Manager to Prevent Workplace Violence?

 Does your workplace have someone looking after the safety of the staff?

(This is a trick question by the way!)

As a result of a recent contract, a client of mine asked me to conduct some qualitative research with respect to Workplace Violence Prevention Plans in their particular industry.

My task was to conduct interviews with several safety professionals.

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A comparative report was then built to compare those various organization’s ‘current state’ to that of my client’s organization, and to then provide any recommendations that I deemed pertinent and germane as a result of my conversations and subsequent analysis.

What to Look for When You Look for Loopholes

I love this work, and it reminded me of a previous client with a similar, but different, requirements. That client had hired me to reveal what their ‘current state’ actually was regarding their staff safety plans.I decided to do this by asking that the staff participate in an anonymous survey.

The results were enlightening, and certainly not what the client wanted to hear at all. However, it proves the value of actually asking people for their opinion.

Be careful though.

If you’re going to ask your staff for their opinion, you better be prepared to do something about what you hear if the results tell you something important! After all, if people have taken the time to answer your questions, and then they don’t hear or see any results, cynicism and disengagement may result.

When I was completing my Master of Arts in Leadership and Training at Royal Roads University in Victoria on Vancouver Island, we were introduced to various kinds of research methods — I was surprised to see how many variations there were to choose from!

Let me give you some insight on what I learned.

When thinking about conducting a survey of your workplace, be intentional and transparent regarding its purpose.

Your survey should essentially be used to ask workers (at every level of the organization) about their perception of their safety in the workplace.

Before distributing the survey, add an introduction that outlines the purpose of the survey, how and when the results of the survey will be reported, with whom the results will be shared, and how it will be used.

The survey should be anonymous.

Sample questions for Staff Safety Risk Assessment

Physical Environment:

  • Do you feel safe at work?
  • Has your workplace been designed to protect you from workplace violence?
  • In your opinion, are there adequate measures to protect you?

If you answered NO to any of the previous questions, please indicate whether the following areas require improvement:

  • Lighting
  • Security checks or protocols (identification checks, sign-in sheets, etc.)
  • Restrictions on public access to work areas (secured elevators, stairwells, etc.)
  • Security in areas used to store personal belongings (locker rooms, etc.)
  • Security staff
  • Security of restrooms
  • Security of parking lots
  • Communication procedures (for example, when and how to call for help)
  • Layout of work areas (visual obstructions, unsecured objects and furniture, etc.)
  • Security devices (surveillance equipment, silent of audible alarms, panic buttons, personal alarms, telephones, cell phones, etc.)

When you think about the list of items that I have just listed for your staff to consider, what do you think people’s opinions would be when they are asked to think seriously about their workplace and consider their own safety? You might be surprised at their answers.

Incidents at Work:

  • Have you been hit, pushed, physically assaulted, or otherwise attacked while working at this organization?

If YES,

  • Where did the incident occur?
  • Did you report the incident?
  • How did you report the incident?
  • Who physically assaulted or otherwise attacked you? (Client-customer / member of the public / co-worker / partner-ex-partner / supervisor / other)
  • Have you been sexually assaulted or been the target of a sexual incident while working at this organization?

If YES,

  • Where did the incident occur?
  • Did you report the incident?
  • How did you report the incident?
  • Who physically assaulted or otherwise attacked you? (Client-customer / member of the public / co-worker / partner-ex-partner / supervisor / other)
  • Have you been threatened with physical harm (orally, in writing, or otherwise) while working at this organization?

If YES,

  • Where did the incident occur?
  • Did you report the incident?
  • How did you report the incident?
  • Who physically assaulted or otherwise attacked you? (Client-customer / member of the public / co-worker / partner-ex-partner / supervisor / other)

 

  • Have you been harassed (sexual harassment, insults, or bullying) while working at this organization?

If YES,

  • Where did the incident occur?
  • Did you report the incident?
  • How did you report the incident?
  • Who physically assaulted or otherwise attacked you? (Client-customer / member of the public / co-worker / partner-ex-partner / supervisor / other)
  • In your opinion, what steps could/should be taken to make your workplace safer?

Policy & Program:

  • Is there a workplace violence policy and program for your workplace?
  • Have procedures for violence prevention been set out for your work area?

If YES:

  • Are they easy to understand and follow?
  • Have you ever seen a written copy of the procedures?

At this point, employers should ask specific questions related to their program:

  • Does the employee know how to call for help?
  • Does the employee know how to de-escalate a situation?
  • Does the employee know how to communicate information regarding a person’s behaviour to other staff members?
  • Other relevant questions

Workplace Incident Reporting and Follow-Up:

  • Are you required to report threats and violence at your workplace?

If YES, can you do so without fear of retaliation/reprisal?

  • Is there a system for reporting threats and violence at your workplace?

If YES, is it easy to understand and follow?

  • Does your supervisor/manager investigate incidents promptly?
  • Does your supervisor/manager take suitable corrective action promptly?
  • Are police and emergency services called immediately when a criminal incident occurs?
  • Are support programs in place to help you if you are directly or indirectly affected by workplace violence?

Any further comments?

Education & Training:

  • Do you know what workplace violence policies and programs exist in your workplace?
  • Do you know how to report a threat or a violent incident, and to whom?
  • Have you received training in recognizing, preventing, and dealing with workplace violence?
  • Have you received training on the security devices that are available to you (surveillance equipment, silent and audible alarms, panic buttons, personal alarms, telephones, cell phones, etc.)?
  • Do you think you are prepared to handle a violent situation, threat, or escalating behaviour exhibited by clients/customers, coworkers, etc while at work?
  • Have you received training or information regarding Domestic Violence in the workplace?

At this point, employers should ask specific questions related to their program:

  • Does the employee know how to call for help?
  • Does the employee know how to de-escalate a situation?
  • Does the employee know how to communicate information regarding a person’s behaviour to other staff members?
  • Other relevant questions

So there you have it; some important questions to ask your employees about how they feel and what they know regarding safety concerns in their workplace.

But what are you going to do with what they share with you in their survey responses?

Remember that the most important aspect of any workplace violence prevention program is that it has the endorsement and active support from the most senior area of your organization.

It has been my experience that when the survey results disclose that the staff does not feel safe and/or supported by those charged with looking after them, change begins to occur pretty quickly.

Doing nothing is not an option.