When was the last time you assessed the safety of your workplace?

And I don’t just mean changing the battery in the smoke detectors when they start that annoying chirping.

What I’m really referring to is safety from violence—something that fire safety can’t help with, unfortunately.

In British Columbia, WorkSafe BC describes the need to conduct a Risk Assessment in Section 4.28 of their Occupational Health & Safety Regulations.

Here’s what it states:

  1. A risk assessment must be performed in any workplace in which a risk of injury to workers from violence arising out of their employment may be present.
  2. The risk assessment must include the consideration of:
    1. Previous experience in that workplace,
    2. Occupational experience in similar workplaces, and
    3. The location and circumstances in which work will take place.

If your Workplace Violence Prevention Program addresses the risks that are faced by employees, a Risk Assessment such as this should be utilized to identify what those risks are, and it should be considered a critical component of the process.

So, how do you assess risk, bearing in mind that every workplace is unique?

Often, a Risk Assessment Team can be designated from the Occupational Health & Safety Committee.

This Team is responsible for:

  • Defining the risk assessment process
  • Identifying and recommending educational training for employees on the issue of Workplace Violence
  • Planning and implementing a Response Action Guide to incidents of violence, if and when they do occur
  • Communicating with employees regarding the development of the program

The elements of the workplace that are assessed MUST include, but are not limited to:

The nature of the work activities

  • Example: Handling cash, dealing with customers/clients face to face, etc

Working conditions

  • Example: Working alone, early morning/late at night, remote locations, working in a location under control of the customer/client, the neighbourhood where the workplace is situated (high crime area), etc.

The design of the workplace and surrounding environment

  • Example: The physical layout and design of the workplace, the geographic location of workplace protective measures (including security measures) that may already be in place, etc.

The frequency and type of situations that present a risk of workplace violence

  • Example: A review of workers compensation claims, incident reports maintained by the employer, medical records, insurance records, police reports, accident investigation reports, union grievances, any other relevant information, etc.

Interviews/surveys with employees regarding how safe they feel and their experiences of workplace violence that may or may not have been previously reported

  • Example: Employees don’t always report incidents because they may not be taken seriously (due to lack of injury or actual physical harm), or they feel that employers view some situations as “just part of the job.”

Additionally, the Risk Assessment should attempt to review the trends in workplace violence as they relate to other similar workplaces or industries.

Following the Risk Assessment, a report must be written up that includes a review of the results and any recommendations to help the situation. It’s critical that if “gaps” are noted during the assessment process, they be given significant priority over other changes that have been recommended.

I realize that it’s not easy knowing where to begin, so I want to discuss some options on how to assess risk.

A useful tool is a grid used to predict the probability and severity of foreseeable risks. It’s widely utilized when conducting organizational and community Hazard, Risk, and Vulnerability Analyses.

How does it work?

Well, start by taking a look at the particular hazards within your workplace and decide what the “Probability” is of an incident occurring. Then determine the severity of what the “Consequences” would be if that incident was to actually take place.

Place a colour code (GREEN/BLUE/YELLOW/ORANGE/RED) beside the hazard that you’re examining. Do that for every single one of the hazards on your list.

When you’ve gone through that list, you’ll clearly be able to see the issues to focus on (hopefully there will be more green than red!).

Of course, this is just one of a wide variety of useful tools available for tackling the process of risk assessment.

I encourage you to take this process as seriously as if you were assessing risk at your own home.

Preventing workplace violence takes time and careful consideration.

Don’t wait until it’s too late…