Nearly 2 million workers in the United States report having been victims of workplace violence each year. While nothing can guarantee that an employee will not become a victim, there are steps employers can take to reduce the likelihood of workplace violence.
What is workplace violence?
Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at or outside the workplace. It can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. Workplace violence can affect and involve employees, clients, customers, and visitors.
What are my responsibilities as an employer?
Under federal law, an employer has a legal duty to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to employees.
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), the best protection employers can offer is to establish a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence against or by their employees. It is critical to ensure that all employees know the policy and understand that all claims of workplace violence will be investigated and remedied promptly. Other recommended actions include:
- Providing safety education so employees know what conduct is not acceptable, what to do if they witness or are subjected to workplace violence, and how to protect themselves.
- Securing the workplace using video surveillance, extra lighting, or alarm systems as appropriate, and minimizing access by outsiders through identification badges, electronic keys, and guards.
- Limiting the amount of cash on hand, especially during evenings and late night hours.
- Equipping field staff with cellular phones and hand-held alarms or noise devices, and requiring them to prepare a daily work plan and keep a contact person informed of their location throughout the day.
- Instructing employees not to enter any location where they feel unsafe and facilitating a “buddy system” or police assistance in potentially dangerous situations or at night.
Where can I find additional information?
To learn more about workplace violence prevention, including risk factors, prevention programs, and training resources, visit OSHA’s website on Workplace Violence.