Workplace violence is a serious risk for many companies and employees. Homicide is the second leading cause of all job-related deaths and the leading cause of death among women. However, workplace violence is not limited to murder. Acts such as physical assault or the threat of physical assault also are considered workplace violence.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act states: “Each employer shall furnish to each of his/her employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” Workplace violence falls under this category with OSHA.
The questions that employers need to ask when it comes to the safety of their employees are the following:
• Why does workplace violence occurs?
• What to do if workplace violence occurs?
• How can employers follow-up when workplace violence occurs?
The following information will give suggestions what employers can do to protect their employees as well as themselves.
Why does Workplace Violence Occurs?
Employees and especially construction workers are at risk for workplace violence because they work in small groups or alone. They may work in early-morning or late night hours or in high-crime areas. They may work in communities that involve extensive contact with the public.
What to do if Workplace Violence Occurs?
Employers should promote awareness of the dangers of workplace violence and clearly communicate goals and plans for preventing it. Essential elements that should be included in a workplace violence prevention program are management commitment, employee involvement, job hazard analysis, hazard prevention/control with training and education. Going a step farther employers should provide safety education for their employees, be involved by communicating with police departments so that they can give information and training on awareness, avoidance, prevention of mugging, robbery, rape, and other assaults. Also important is establish a communication system by means through the use of cellular phones, citizens band radios, or other communication devices for field employees. Instruct employees not to enter locations where they feel unsafe; utilize a “buddy system,” escort service, or police assistance in potentially dangerous situations. At night establish procedures to decrease the risk of robbery. Require field staff to prepare a daily work plan and keep a contact person informed of their location throughout the day ensure proper maintenance of employer provided vehicles and provide field personnel with hand-held alarms or noise devices. Attending personal safety training programs will assist one to learn how to recognize, avoid or defuse potentially violent situations by. Follow procedures for alerting supervisors to any concerns about safety or security. Report all violent incidents in writing to the supervisor even if there were not any injuries.
How Can Employers Follow-Up When Workplace Violence Occurs?
Employers need to encourage employees to report and log all incidents and threats of workplace violence. Regardless of the severity of the injury, provide prompt medical evaluation and treatment after each incident. Immediately report violent incidents to the local police department. Inform victims of workplace violence of their legal right to prosecute perpetrators. Discuss the circumstances of assaults with staff members. Provide opportunities for employees to share information about ways to avoid such problems in the future. Investigate all violent incidents and threats and minor trends in violent incidents by type or circumstance, and institute corrective actions. Workers who have been assaulted or have seen co-workers attacked often report that they experience short and long-term psychological trauma, fear of returning to work, and changes in relationships with co-workers and family. Critical-incident stress debriefing sessions and post-trauma counseling services may help workers to recover from violent incidents. These services should be part of any violence prevention program. Employee assistance programs may offer these debriefing sessions. Workplace violence often attracts media attention. Have a crisis management program in place that addresses handling the media.
Yes, workplace violence is a serious risk for many companies and employees. When employers take the proactive approach in having a workplace violence program in place, communicate and train their employees, this will contribute to a safe working environment for their employees as well as themselves.
Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), “Protecting Community Workers Against Violence,” fact sheet no. OSHA-96-53 – www.osha.com
Preventing workplace homicides, contact the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health – www. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/