Across the nation, violence in the workplace is emerging as a significant occupational hazard. All too frequently, employees become victims of violent acts that result in substantial physical or emotional harm. For injured or threatened employees, workplace violence can lead to medical treatment, missed work, lost wages, and decreased productivity.
For many occupations, workplace violence represents a serious occupational risk. Violence at work can take many forms: harassment, intimidation, threats, theft, stalking, assault, arson, sabotage, bombing, hostage-taking, kidnapping, extortion, suicide, and homicide. For each murder, there are countless other incidents of workplace violence in which victims are threatened or injured.
Here are some recent statistics for workplace violence:
Source: Workplace Violence. (2012) The National Center for Victims of Crime. Retrieved from http://www.victimsofcrime.org/library/crime-information-and-statistics/workplace-violence
The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act's General Duty Clause requires employers to provide a safe and healthful working environment for all workers covered by the OSH Act of 1970. This act was passed to prevent workers from being killed or seriously harmed at work. The law requires employers to provide their employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers. If there is a recognized violence hazard in the workplace and employers do not take feasible steps to prevent or abate it, employers can be cited. Workers may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they believe their employer isn’t following OSHA standards or there are serious hazards.
Training is a critical component of any prevention strategy. Training is necessary for employees, supervisors, and the staff members of each department who may be involved in responding to an incident of workplace violence. Training and instruction on workplace violence ensures that all staff is aware of potential hazards and how to protect themselves and their co-workers through established prevention and control measures. While most everyone agrees there are clear warning signs before most acts of workplace violence, what action should be taken varies.
Nevertheless, making information available to employees about the potential for violence in the workplace, how to recognize the early warning signs of a troubled or potentially violent person, and how to respond to such a person, could save a life.
Not all individuals who are distraught over services (or lack thereof) or their termination of employment will become violent. The primary type of training that may be beneficial to all employees is that which concentrates on conflict resolution.
Once a workplace violence program is ready to be implemented, companies must decide whether to issue a written policy statement.
Company programs can also be implemented without a written policy statement. In these companies, employees are often given information about the program (especially whom to call) in training sessions, on posters, in newsletter articles, or by other similar methods. Companies have an inherent right to take action against employees who engage in disruptive or threatening behavior whether or not they have issued a written policy statement.
A workplace violence policy statement should convey that:
All employees should know how to report incidents of violent, intimidating, threatening and other disruptive behavior. All employees should also be provided with phone numbers for quick reference during a crisis or an emergency. Workplace violence prevention training for employees may also include other topics. Those topics include an explanation of the company’s workplace violence policies, ways to prevent or diffuse volatile situations or aggressive behavior, how to deal with hostile persons, and personal security measures within the company.
OSHA recognizes the importance of effective safety and health program management in providing safe and healthful workplaces. OSHA believes that the performance oriented approach of the guidelines provides employers with flexibility in their efforts to maintain safe and healthful working conditions. OSHA has additional information to help you with this and many other safety and health issues.
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