5 Steps for Protecting Your Business Against Workplace Violence
Workplace violence is a real threat in our global economy. No business is exempt from the threat of violence and that threat may stem from either an internal or external source. Knowing ahead of time how to respond to a situation can save valuable seconds in response time. We talk a lot about drafting plans and policies before you need them, but there are practical, tangible steps you can take to reduce your desirability as a target and protect your workers.
You cannot predict workplace violence, but you can take steps to protect your facility. Install a secured entrance and electronic doors in your facility to limit access from unauthorized persons. Perimeter fencing is an exterior option. Enact visitor controls that require all visitors to log into and out of the facility and be escorted by an employee at all times during their visit. Install a panic alarm button at the reception or welcome desk. If this area has a window, bullet-proof glass can be installed. Conduct thorough background checks on all employees, including temporary workers and contractors. Install surveillance cameras at all entrances to the building and in the common areas of the interior. Overhead mirrors can reduce blind spots. Security and courtesy officers may be hired to patrol the property during working hours, after hours, or both.
Understand Risk Factors.
Workplace violence is most often preceded by some particular stressor that triggers the perpetrator. Life is stressful. Work is stressful. Everyone is busy. It is impossible to know what might trigger a person and we certainly cannot place a cloud of suspicion over anyone’s head because they have experienced X number of Y factors in the preceding Z number of months. There is no formulaic checklist to protect us. There are, however, certain commonalities that can (CAN…not WILL) serve as trigger events. These include, but are in no way limited to, job layoffs and terminations, domestic situations, loss of a loved one, financial difficulties, injury or illness (of the employee or a loved one), and substance abuse. Suicidal talk should be taken seriously. You are cautioned not to apply these factors as a checklist overlay. Rather, you should be alert to extreme changes in behavior.
Watch for Signals.
Be alert to agitation, pacing, and aggressive body language. Any customer or employee who becomes argumentative or physically intimidating (leaning into or over another person, crossing physical boundaries to get close to another worker) should be removed from the premises as soon as possible. Cursing, yelling, flailing of arms, throwing things, and making verbal threats are all serious signs of agitation and should be addressed quickly. De-escalation and removal are key to a safe, positive outcome.
Control What You Can.
Controlling these situations is critical to assuring the safety of your workers. This is where good training comes into play. Teach crisis intervention techniques so employees understand how to respond empathetically to de-escalate the situation. Employees should know not to argue and to disengage from the conversation. The goal is to remove the aggressor from the premises and/or to remove the employee from the aggressor’s reach.
Employees should know ahead of time how and when to respond to aggressive behaviors. Sometimes, listening is our most valuable asset. Other times, retreat is the best response. Your employees have mere seconds to choose, and must choose wisely.
Develop Some Resources.
First aid kits should be accessible throughout your facility. Set up a designated assembly area with controlled access inside the building. Create emergency evacuation plans and designated assembly areas. Develop a shelter-in-place policy that includes a code word for lifting the shelter-in-place restriction. Coordinate emergency response plans with local fire and police departments.
In a perfect world, we could predict who needs assistance before a trigger event occurs. While that is not possible, resources like an employee assistance program can be invaluable resources. Be sure your employees know what programs are available to them. Hang posters around the facility with phone numbers so workers can access these resources confidentially. Be alert to your surroundings and aware of questionable behavior. An early response is the best response.
Does your company have formal safety policies in place? Are you responsible for workforce safety or risk management? Contact our Kansas City Safety and Risk Management Firm on our website or give us a call at (816) 349-0850 to see how we can help design a safety and risk management plan that meets your unique needs.