In the wake of a tragedy like the July 20 shooting in Aurora, Colo., many begin to question whether their workplace is safe from a similar horror.
The sad fact is that there is no way to guarantee a workplace will remain safe from all types of workplace violence, especially an incident like the theater shooting that left 12 dead and 58 injured during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. However, well-planned workplace violence prevention is the best chance an employer has to prevent a violent tragedy.
Violence enters the workplace through a variety of routes, and a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan will be structured to prevent all types of workplace violence and help employees respond appropriately should an incident arise at work. An awareness of workplace violence is especially important for workers to consider if they routinely do any of the following:
- exchange money with the public;
- deliver passengers, goods, or services; or
- work alone or in small groups, during late night or early morning hours, in high-crime areas, or in community settings and homes where they have extensive contact with the public.
The NIOSH classifies workplace violence into four types, each demanding different approaches to prevention and response:
Type I, Criminal intent: Type I workplace violence is perpetrated by a person with no relationship to the business or any employee. The shooting in Aurora is an example of Type I workplace violence, as would be a robbery, or similar actions.
Type II, Customer/Client: When a client, customer or recipient of an organization’s services commits violence while being served, it is classified as type II violence.
Type III, Worker-on-Worker: Type II workplace violence happens when a current or former employee attacks another current or former employee in the workplace.
Type IV, Personal Relationship: When the perpetrator has a relationship with the intended victim, but not the business and brings violence into the victim’s workplace, it is classified as Type IV violence, such as an abusive spouse or a stalker intruding on a person’s workplace.
While a complete program should address all types of workplace violence, a job hazard analysis can identify the specific types of violence that are most likely to arise in a given job, and identify areas of focus for prevention based on the unique risk factors of the work environment and the type of work being done.
With an awareness of the violence hazards of a given job, the best controls for present hazards quickly become evident. Increased visibility, restricted access areas, adequate exits, and barriers between the public and employees can all contribute to preventing harm to workers from violence. Further, management needs to respond quickly to workers’ concerns and communicate clearly that violence will never be tolerated in the workplace. A vigilant approach to worker selection, including background checks, together with company policies that encourage honest workplace communication and sensitivity to the emotional well-being of workers can help keep violence at bay.
Security alarms, barriers, attention to personnel (in terms of training and attention to their psychological well-being) and an awareness of safer work practices all help prevent workplace violence. Nevertheless, violence, or threats of violence, can emerge despite the best prevention. As part of routine safety training, management and employees should be trained in appropriate de-escalation strategies and emergency response protocols. A little training and practice can go a long way to create a safety culture and and sense of readiness that can save lives.
While a tragedy like what happened in Aurora might never be completely avoidable, there are always steps employers and employees can take to make the workplace safer.
If you need help getting started on your Workplace Violence Prevention program, give us a call at 877-804-8786.