Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers and visitors. According to data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), acts of violence and other injuries is currently the third-leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States. During the month of April, OSHA encourages employers and employees to understand the risks and take action to reduce workplace violence.
Understand the risks
While workplace violence can happen in any place at any time, some workers are at increased risk. OSHA identifies workers who exchange money with the public, delivery drivers, healthcare professionals, public service workers, customer service agents, law enforcement personnel, and those who work alone or in small groups as the most vulnerable.
Providing services and care, working with unstable people and working where alcohol is served may also impact the likelihood of violence.
Time of day and location of work, such as working late at night or in areas with high crime rates, are also risk factors that should be considered when addressing issues of workplace violence.
How can workplace violence hazards be reduced?
Taking precautions and understanding risk factors are the most effective way to reduce the risk of workplace violence. OSHA recommends the following precautions:
- Establish a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence. Implement a policy that covers all workers, patients, clients, visitors, contractors and anyone else who may come in contact with company personnel.
- Provide a workplace violence prevention training program. Whether it’s part of a larger safety or health program or a separate program, it’s important to educate your staff about the risks and warning signs of workplace violence. It is critical to ensure that all workers know the policy and understand that all claims of workplace violence will be investigated and remedied promptly.
- Assess worksites for safety and security vulnerabilities. Make sure your facility is safe, secure and well-maintained. Educate your staff about emergency exits and evacuation routes.
For more information, please review the following resources from OSHA: