Workplace violence has been emerging as a veloped guidelines and recommendations to reduce worker exposure to this tragic epidemic. Most experts on occupational violence agree that the success of a workplace violence prevention program depends to a large extent on the executive committee set up to establish and oversee the programs.
The group’s duties are to formulate policies that define workplace violence, and to determine consequences and punishments. They suggest that workplace violence can be prevented through education and training. Companies that educate their employees on workplace violence generally set up interactive workshops where strict attendance is enforced. There are several causes and contributing factors, which can lead to workplace violence.
Both internal organizational factors and external factors contribute to a vast majority of workplace violence, although rampage shootings make the headlines, it is far more common for workplace violence to be nonfatal. Workplace violence encompasses more than just homicide it can include all behaviors and circumstances that threaten an employee’s physical safety; such as verbal, sexual or physical assault, threats, robberies, coercion, intimidation, stalking, and harassment.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has defined workplace violence by creating three categories. Category one is stranger violence. This is violence committed at the job-site by a stranger with no connection to the site, such as robbery or burglary. Stranger violence accounts for 60% of all workplace homicides. Category two is client violence. This is where a customer or client attacks an employee. Client violence accounts for 30% of all workplace homicides.
The third category is employee violence, which is characterized by violence committed upon other employees by a permanent, part-time, temporary, or sub-contracted employee. This category accounts for 10% of all workplace homicides. Although deadly acts certainly pose a threat to the American workforce as statistics indicate, the disgruntled worker accounts for a small percentage of actual deaths. A large majority of workplace homicides do not involve murderous assaults between coworkers within an organization; rather, they occur in connection with robberies and other crimes.
These external factors account for a large majority of violence in the workforce. These types of robberies account for approximately 1,000 deaths each year from violence in the workplace. Another external culprit of workplace violence is domestic violence, which can negatively affect work performance resulting in frequent violent outbursts, affecting the workforce. Domestic or spousal assault at work is commonly seen in the workplace today. The workplace is a common target for stalking, because it is one location where the victim can usually be found.
This allows for easy access for a stalker to prey on their victim, because while victims can change phone numbers and move many can’t switch jobs to avoid their stalker. Although internal factors account for a much smaller number of workplace disturbances these factors still pose large threats to the workplace. By and large, the single biggest internal factor of workplace violence by its employees is termination. An employee who feels that they have lost control will sometimes seek to regain that control with some form of workplace violence.
As a result many companies now offer placement assistance programs to their employees to help reduce stress and to minimize the risks of workplace violence. Other factors that may perpetuate workforce violence include: evaluations, lack of promotion or advancement, authoritarian management, relationships in the workplace and stress. There are many precautionary steps employees can take to avoid and minimize violence in the workplace. Understanding the many causes that lead to workplace violence is essential for a safe and comfortable working environment.
They have to ensure the safety of their employees and in order to do so, they must research, and realize that any type of violence can and may in fact be frightening one of their employees on their property. In 1999, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded 645 homicides in workplaces in the United States. Homicide remains the third leading cause of fatal occupational injuries for all workers and the second leading cause of fatal occupational injuries for women. The exact number of non-fatal assaults is not known.
As we have discussed, workplace violence stems from a variety of sources, which makes it difficult to address the problem, and find an exact solution. Researchers for employers have divided workplace violence into four types: criminal intent, customer or client, worker-on-worker and personal relationships. Criminal intent is when the perpetrator has no legitimate relationship to the employees or the business. This type of violence involves verbal threats, threatening behavior or physical assaults. 85% percent of all workplace homicides fall into this category.
An example of criminal intent occurred in May 2000, when two men entered a Wendy’s in Flushing, NY, with the intent to rob the restaurant. They stole $2,400. 00, after fatally shooting five employees and seriously injuring two other employees. Customer or client violence is when the perpetrator is a customer, client, or patient who becomes violent during the course of a normal transaction. Victims can include teachers, social workers, health care workers, inmates and cashiers. Worker on worker is when the perpetrator is an employee or former employee, and their motivating factor is one or a series of work-related conflicts.
This type of violence accounts for approximately 7% of all workplace violent homicides. A personal relationship example is when the perpetrator doesn’t have a connection with the business, but has a personal relationship with an intended victim. This also includes victims of domestic violence assaulted or threatened while at work. After an employer has analyzed the motivating factors behind workplace violence, and the different types they may have to deal with, an employer must consider what their options are to resolve the problem.
They may look to government, or union associations for help, and possibly to outside companies for ideas in prevention. The first step for an employer is to take action; it is better to do something and work towards a solution rather than stand by and do nothing. It is the employer’s responsibility to maintain a safe workplace. As we have discussed, a violent workplace is an unsafe workplace. Unfortunately, most employers are often not willing to work with the union to attack the problem. Supervisors often assume that violence is just “part of the job” and employees shouldn’t complain.
Supervisors sometimes laugh off employee requests for police accompaniment when going alone into neighborhoods that are so dangerous even armed police are wise enough not to enter them alone. Some supervisors discourage employees from filing workers compensation claims or taking time off for violence-related workplace injuries. Often supervisors or managers blame the worker for a violent incident, thinking they asked for it or their actions were the cause for the incident. A number of workers blame themselves, as most victims of any crime do.
When the employer is not willing to work aggressively to resolve the problem, the union must take action to educate workers and force management to act. Once the union becomes involved, they follow certain guidelines to assist the employees and encourage management to become involved. They may begin by talking with the employees, or perhaps conducting a survey. They urge union members to document all assault incidents, close calls, and abusive behavior. This data should be reviewed on a regular basis and discussed with management. Their goal and responsibility is to keep members informed through communication and the local union newsletter.
The next step is to develop a plan of action that everyone can concede to deal with. The union attempts to work with management to develop a plan to prevent workplace violence. If management refuses to respond, the union should and most likely will take action. They may file grievances, develop contract language, build coalitions, or go to the media, to work the problems out. Another effective action management or unions can use is OSHA (Occupational Safety Health Association, in those 23 states where public employees are covered by OSHA).
Although there is no OSHA standard designed to protect employees from violence, OSHA has cited employers under the General Duty Clause, which requires employers to provide a safe workplace. In order to sustain a general duty clause violation, OSHA must prove the existence of a hazard, which is recognized and causes or is likely to cause death or serious physical harm, and the existence of a feasible and effective method to abate the hazard. The union may also need OSHA to assist in building and resolving its plea to management. To involve OSHA, a union must proceed with the following guidelines.
The union must first prove to OSHA that a hazard exists in the workplace. The employer’s injury and illness forms (OSHA Log 200) will hold evidence on the extent of violence-related injuries. Grievances, complaints, minutes of health and safety committee meetings, and workers compensation records will also be evidence that a problem exists. The second step is that the hazard is recognized. This recognition means that the employer has knowledge that assaults are a hazard in the workplace and/or that workplace conditions make violence likely.
Recognition can also mean that the employer should have knowledge that assaults are a problem in the workplace even if the employer doesn’t admit there is a problem. For example, the employer should have known there is a problem because this problem is generally recognized by people working in the field, or there have been several studies written, or guidelines have been issued. Recognition can be proved in the following ways: the facility’s or department’s own internal rules, journal/professional articles recognizing violence in this type of workplace, injury statistics in the workplace or in the industry in general.
The third step in the process is to prove the hazard causes or is likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Workers compensation records, medical records, and accident reports can be used to prove the severity of injuries related to workplace violence. The final step in the process is to find a feasible and effective method to abate the hazard that exists. There are a variety of sources of information on potential steps that can be taken to minimize the likelihood of violence in the workplace.
They may include: a mental health, correctional or other facility’s own internal rules and procedures designed to minimize violent incidents, methods used in similar facilities, employee surveys, health and safety committee recommendations, literature search for articles, studies or guidelines. How can violence be prevented in the workplace? I believe that violence in the workplace can be prevented through education and training. To begin, a team of employees should be established to develop policies and procedures for the awareness and prevention of workplace violence.
By establishing a team, this will allow for the generation of research, history and lessons learned documentation that will aid in the prevention of workplace violence in the future. Employees should be educated on workplace violence discussing issues such as: early warning signs, emergency procedures, prevention, etc. Once an issue is reported it can be assessed by a team to determine what actions should be taken. In some cases, causing violence in the workplace could result in the termination of an employee or employees. How do you go about training your employees on violence in the workplace?
Workshops could be established where strict attendance is enforced for all employees. Within these workshops, various items can be used to teach employees about violence in the workplace. One item could be a video showing various situations of violence in the workplace and what an employee should do at each situation. Another item could be a handout or booklet for each employee that would discuss issues on violence in the workplace. Some examples that might be considered as chapters in the handouts or booklets are: · Why should I be concerned about violence in the workplace? · Understanding the legalities of violence in the workplace.
· Violence in the workplace can take many forms. · Be conscious of how your words and actions may be perceived. · What if I am a victim? · What about retaliation by the accused? · Questions and answers. · Employee responsibilities. · How to handle violence if you’re a manager or supervisor. · Contacts. There are even companies out there that specialize in training employees on violence in the workplace. The internet is a great place to begin searching for information and training materials on workplace violence. Violence in the workplace is a serious hazard, a predictable hazard, and a hazard that has effective, feasible solutions.
Like any other health and safety hazard, it is the employer’s responsibility to provide the working conditions that will minimize the likelihood of employee injury due to violence, and it is OSHA’s responsibility to enforce that responsibility. Corporations and small business can take steps to begin protecting their workforce and themselves by gathering general industry research and specific research at their company. They also should develop policies, procedures and training programs to educate their workforce and management on violence in the workplace.