Workplace Violence Strikes Close to Home
The tragic events that unfolded yesterday at Accent Signage Systems in Minneapolis are an unfortunate reminder that workplace violence can happen anywhere and at any time. Our hearts and prayers are with the victims of this horrible event, and our thoughts turn to trying to help others avoid a similar calamity.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated that almost 2 million workers experience workplace violence every year. While the degree of violence varies, hundreds of American workers are murdered each year at work in acts that we all say “couldn’t happen here”, until they do.
Obviously, there is no sure-fire plan that will guarantee complete freedom from workplace violence. Violence is often irrational and unpredictable, and occasionally totally random. Still, there are steps that employers can and should take to give themselves the best possible chance of preventing such tragedies. These steps include:
- Enact, publicize and enforce a zero-tolerance policy for threats and violence in your workplace. Make sure that you clearly define the behaviors that are covered.
- Ban weapons from the work environment.
- Conduct thorough criminal background checks before hiring.
- Educate supervisors and managers on the warning signs of troubled employees and potential violence.
- Establish clear and comfortable procedures for employees to report threats or violent acts.
- Resolve workplace disputes expeditiously and fairly so that resentments don’t escalate.
- Evaluate security procedures on a regular basis.
- Prepare a plan for responding to potential and actual violence. Identify available resources, assign authority for contacting police, etc.
- Consider maintaining an employee assistance plan (EAP) to provide effective referrals for employee experiencing the types of problems that often precede acts of violence.
- Handle disciplinary and termination issues with dignity and professionalism, but also with caution and preparedness.
The best way to prevent workplace violence is to anticipate and defuse it. After all, isn’t it better to ask your self “what can I do?” rather than “What could I have done?”