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Maintaining a Safe Workplace

In the wake of the on-air killing of two Virginia news reporters,
we have had several inquiries to the Helpline asking what can be
done to keep our workplaces safe. This question most definitely
strikes at the core for employers after learning about such a
tragedy.Let’s first be sure to understand the scope of
workplace violence.

OSHA defines workplace violence as: “Any act or threat of
physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other
threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It
ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and
even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients,
customers and visitors.”

Each year, more than 2 million Americans are affected by
workplace violence. It can happen anywhere at any time and while
many feel caught off guard, there are often warning signs that we
should be aware of. Not all employees will demonstrate signs that
their behavior could turn violent, but the more warning signs
that are present the potential for violence increases. According
to SHRM, the following behaviors could be considered warning
signs for potential violence:

  • History of past violent behavior including obsession with
    weapons or acts of violence
  • Demonstration of threatening behavior like excessive phone
    calls, excessive gift giving or making statements of plans to
    hurt others
  • Displays of unwarranted anger and may
    be argumentative, uncooperative or impulsive
  • Increase in personal stress
  • Does not take criticism well
  • Expresses feelings of being a victim
  • Changes in behavior including mood, irrational ideas or
  • Deterioration in work performance

While there are many theories about the causes of workplace
violence, the Department of Labor (DOL) warns: “caution should be
taken when profiling or stereotyping individuals or organizations
since the presence of any of the factors related to these
theories does not necessarily indicate a violent act will be
carried out. Nevertheless, an incident can be the result of any
one or a combination of these factors.”

For businesses, one of the strongest stances to take against
workplace violence begins with a zero-tolerance policy that
clearly explains that violence or threats, in all their forms,
are unacceptable workplace behavior which will not be tolerated
and will be dealt with appropriately. To ensure that managers and
employees have a solid understanding of this policy, it is
important to clearly define

  1. where the policy can be found (Intranet, employee
    handbook or other common source)
  2. where and how concerns or fears can be reported or shared

Additionally, here are some great resources to help assist you in
maintaining a safe workplace:

  • Your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
  • The U.S. Department of Justice’s FBI Division has issued a
    practical guide to help
    employers manage workplace violence.
  • OSHA’s Workplace Violence Fact Sheet and other
    helpful resources for
    prevention and evaluating and controlling violence in the

As always, we invite our Helpline clients to call with any

HR Works, Inc., headquartered in Upsate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.