Preventing Workplace Violence With A Strategy

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As with most other risks, prevention of workplace violence begins with planning. It is easier to persuade managers to focus on the problem after a violent act has taken place than it is to get them to act before anything has happened. The more difficult the decision to plan in advance, the more logical it is. Any organization, large or small, will be more able to spot potential dangers and defuse them before violence develops and will be able to manage a crisis if its executives have considered the issue beforehand and have prepared policies, practices and structures to deal with it.

Forming a Workplace Violence Strategy

  • There must be support from the top.
  • There is no “one-size-fits-all” strategy.
  • A plan should be proactive, not reactive.
  • A plan should take into account the workplace culture: work atmosphere, relationships, traditional management styles, etc.
  • Planning for and responding to workplace violence calls for expertise from a number of perspectives.
  • Managers should take an active role in communicating the workplace violence policy to employees.
  • Practice your plan. No matter how thorough or well-conceived, preparation won’t do any good if an emergency happens and no one remembers or carries out what was planned.
  • Re-evaluate, rethink and revise.

Components of a workplace violence prevention program can include:

  • A statement of the employer’s violence policy and complementary policies
  • A physical security survey and assessment of premises
  • Procedures for addressing threats and threatening behaviour
  • Designation and training of an incident response team
  • Access to outside resources, such as threat assessment professionals
  • Training of different management and employee groups
  • Crisis response measures
  • Consistent enforcement of behavioural standards.

Written Workplace Violence Policy Statement

The statement should affirm the company’s commitment to a safe workplace, employees’ obligation to behave appropriately on the job, and the employer’s commitment to take action on any employee’s complaint regarding harassing, threatening, and violent behaviour. The statement should be in writing and distributed to employees at all levels.

In defining acts that will not be tolerated, the statement should make clear that not just physical violence but threats, bullying, harassment and possession of weapons are against company policy and are prohibited.

Training

Employee training on ways to respond to and report incidents of workplace violence is necessary, but not a sufficient condition for prevention of workplace violence. Training should increase awareness of workplace violence risks, emphasize the importance of adhering to protective administrative controls and encourage employees to immediately report any suspicious or threatening behaviour. While training is only one component of a successful comprehensive workplace violence prevention program, preventive adjustments by management are equally important.

For assistance in arming your company with a workplace violence strategy, email me at ojensen@scrivens.ca.

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