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How to Avoid Workplace Violence

Violence in the workplace is an issue that no company — regardless of how large or small the company or where it’s located — can afford to ignore.

What steps can your company take to provide reasonable protection for your employees? Your best source of information on this matter is your local police department. Most police departments have specialists in crime prevention who can survey your business and make recommendations.

Other good sources for crime prevention strategies are your state occupational safety and health agency, which may have guidelines and recommendations on employee safety measures. Also, look to violence prevention experts, insurance companies, or private security consultants.

You need to take a twofold approach of both protecting your employees from the violent acts of outsiders and protecting your employees from the violent acts of fellow employees.

As much as you don’t want to dwell on the unpleasant, it’s better to be prepared for both external and internal threats. You can put in place specific policies that can lessen the possibility of emergency situations. To address external threats, consider the following:

  • Pay your employees by check, not cash. Better still, encourage direct deposit of pay into employee bank accounts (with appropriate employee consent, of course).

  • Keep building perimeters and parking lots well lit.

  • Limit access to strangers. Consider implementing an access card system for employees. If appropriate for your business, ask visitors to wait in the reception area until an employee is available to escort them. Identify visitors with a special badge and escort them at all times. Instruct employees to notify the security office about strangers with no identification.

  • Provide lockers, desk drawers, or other safe areas where employees can secure valuables.

To address internal threats, take these steps:

  • Establish and communicate to employees a strong, unequivocal policy of zero tolerance for violence. Include as causes for immediate dismissal threatening gestures, fighting words, and physical actions. This policy should be included in your company’s workplace violence policy and employee code of conduct.

  • Consider providing counseling and other assistance — possibly through an employee assistance program — for troubled employees or those with personal, financial or substance abuse problems. Bear in mind your various legal obligations relative to disabled employees.

  • Be constantly aware that certain workplace situations, such as disciplinary meetings and termination interviews, have a potential for violence. Take precautions accordingly.

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