Staying “Armed” with a Workplace Violence Prevention Program

Workplace violence prevention – it’s an important piece of a successful business. Unfortunately, no employer can guarantee the safety of his or her staff. No matter what the job or where it’s located, an employee can’t be promised that they won’t become a victim of workplace violence.
There are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of workplace violence.
First let me briefly define what constitutes workplace violence:
Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening and disruptive behaviour that occurs in or outside the workplace, including verbal abuse.
Additionally, workplace violence may not only involve employees, but can affect clients, customers, and visitors alike.
Research (of which there is a great deal) has identified a number of factors that may increase the risk of violence for some workers because of their workplace, including:

  • Working directly with the public
  • Handling money, valuables or prescription drugs (e.g. cashiers, pharmacists)
  • Carrying out inspection or enforcement duties (e.g. government employees)
  • Providing service, care, advice, or education (e.g. health care staff, teachers)
  • Working with unstable or volatile persons (e.g. social services or criminal justice system employees)
  • Working in premises where alcohol is served (e.g. food and beverage staff)
  • Working alone or in small numbers (e.g. store clerks, real estate agents)
  • Working in isolated or low traffic areas (e.g. washrooms, storage areas, utility rooms)
  • Working in community-based settings
  • Having a mobile workplace
  • Working during periods of intense organizational change (e.g. strikes, downsizing)
  • Working with job insecurity

Also remember that time of day and location (such as late at night or in a high crime area) are also risk factors, making certain occupations and industries at an inherently higher risk for workplace violence.
Now that you know what the risks are, let’s talk about what your responsibilities are as an employer.
You have a legal duty under federal and provincial occupational safety and health laws to provide a workplace free of conditions or activities that you or your industry recognize as hazardous or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees (provided there’s a feasible method to eliminate or reduce the hazard or risk).
Furthermore, any employer that has experienced acts of workplace violence or becomes aware of threats, intimidation, or other indicators showing that the potential for violence in a workplace exists, is considered “on notice” for the risk of violence. This basically means that a workplace violence prevention program should immediately be implemented to reduce the likelihood of violence occurring.
But where to begin?
First things first, establish a “zero tolerance policy” toward any workplace violence, whether it’s against an employee or by an employee—this is one of the best precautions you can take.
Next, establish a Workplace Violence Prevention Program or incorporate the information into an existing accident prevention program, employee handbook, or manual of standard operating procedures—it’s critical to ensure that all employees know the policy and understand that all claims of workplace violence will be investigated and remedied promptly.
Part of your preventative measures to protect your employees should also include the following concrete steps.
Provide safety education so that workers know what conduct is not acceptable, what to do if they witness or are subjected to workplace violence, and how to protect themselves.
Next, secure the workplace:

  • Where appropriate, install video surveillance, extra lighting, and alarm systems
  • Minimize access to outsiders with identification badges, electronic keys, and guards
  • Provide drop safes to limit the amount of cash on hand
  • Keep a minimal amount of cash in registers during evenings and late-night hours
  • Equip field staff with cellphones and handheld alarms or noise devices, and require them to prepare a daily work plan and keep a contact person informed of their location throughout the day
  • Keep your company vehicles properly maintained
  • Tell employees not to enter any location where they feel unsafe
  • Introduce a buddy system or provide a guard or police assistance in potentially unsafe situations or at night

Producing a workplace violence prevention program may sound overwhelming, but here at Fiore Group Training we want to help.
So we’ve created a comprehensive guide to help employers develop a workplace violence prevention program.
Contact us to get your workplace violence prevention guide.
Stay safe everyone.

sonar leadership


About the Author:

Phil Eastwood is a former London Bobby who brings a thirty-five year career in policing to his role as Senior Partner of Fiore Group Training, a recognized leader in training top North American organizations. Phil is lead author of workplace training courses in respectful workplace training, workplace violence employee training, and leadership training seminars.

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