Safety professionals are increasingly at the forefront of managing the risk of workplace violence. Both general and specific occupational safety and health (OSHA) regulations require companies to provide a work environment safe from acts of violence.
While the focus remains on personnel and physical security applications to mitigate threats, creating an environment where staff members are comfortable sharing information and reporting concerns is the best approach to early identification of individuals who pose a threat of violence. Training frontline staff in violence risk recognition and reporting procedures allow employees to bring concerns forward safely while respecting confidentiality.
Workers are often afraid to report troubling comments or behaviours to supervisors. Concerns include; appearing to over-react, getting others in trouble, or fear of retaliation. Adopting a structured approach to identify, assess and manage threats of workplace violence can minimize these concerns. By increasing staff awareness of pre-incident warning signs, companies can significantly increase opportunities to intercede and assist individuals moving on a path towards violence.
Research shows that workplace violence aggressors often have a history of “leaking” violent ideation prior to actual acts of violence. Leakage may occur through comments, references or actions. Warning signs include identifying with individuals who have carried out workplace mass murders, feelings of having nothing left to lose, or failing to consider non-violent alternatives to deal with work or personal stressors. Individually, these factors may not suggest that an individual poses a risk of violence, but as these begin to appear in clusters, further assessment and support should be prioritized.
Now more than ever, it is critical to monitor for the risk of violence impacting on our workplaces. While the risk of workplace homicide is very low, a single incident can have catastrophic consequences.
As our world continues to become more complex, there is often an increase in personal stressors impacting on the workplace. The breakdown of financial stability and loss of personal relationships can trigger increased violence risk potential.
A 2009 article in the Vancouver Sun identified the rise of violence related to the current economic downturn. The article quoted a report in the London Times that 58 fatalities were linked to eight incidents in one month alone.
Increasing personal and financial pressures are regularly identified as a factor in significant acts of workplace-related homicide and suicide. Of particular concern is the increase in familial homicide/suicides where the aggressor has recently experienced workplace difficulties then goes on to kill themselves and family members.
Incidents of harassment, bullying, intimidation and physical violence are much more commonplace and, depending on the wording of OSHA regulations, are often defined as “workplace violence”.
A corporate violence risk awareness training session provides your employees with a platform to help them see and understand the types of workplace violence, associated company and individual dynamics and the tools to recognize and report statements and behaviors of concern. Early recognition and intervention provides the best opportunity to minimize or mitigate the risk of workplace violence.
Kevin will be presenting more information about what actions your organization should be taking to prevent workplace violence during the Safety & Health Specialist course