What is workplace violence?
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.
Homicide is currently the fourth-leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), of the 4,547 fatal workplace injuries that occurred in the United States in 2010, 506 were workplace homicides. Homicide is the leading cause of death for women in the workplace. [More...] However it manifests itself, workplace violence is a major concern for employers and employees nationwide.
Who is at risk of workplace violence?
Nearly 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year. Unfortunately, many more cases go unreported. The truth is, workplace violence can strike anywhere, anytime, and no one is immune. Research has identified factors that may increase the risk of violence for some workers at certain worksites. Such factors include exchanging money with the public and working with volatile, unstable people. Working alone or in isolated areas may also contribute to the potential for violence.
Providing services and care, and working where alcohol is served may also impact the likelihood of violence. Additionally, 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. Among those with higher risk are 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.
How can workplace violence hazards be reduced?
In most workplaces where risk factors can be identified, the risk of assault can be prevented or minimized if employers take appropriate precautions. One of the best protections employers can offer their workers is to establish a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence. This policy should cover all workers, patients, clients, visitors, contractors, and anyone else who may come in contact with company personnel.
By assessing their worksites, employers can identify methods for reducing the likelihood of incidents occurring. OSHA believes that a well written and implemented Workplace Violence Prevention Program, combined with engineering controls, administrative controls and training can reduce the incidence of workplace violence in both the private sector and Federal workplaces.
This can be a separate workplace violence prevention program or can be incorporated into an injury and illness prevention program, employee handbook, or manual of standard operating procedures. 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. In addition, OSHA encourages employers to develop additional methods as necessary to protect employees in high risk industries.
Purpose of Handbook
This handbook, developed by the U. S. Office of Personnel Management and the InterAgency Working Group on Violence in the Workplace, is the result of a cooperative effort of many Federal Agencies sharing their expertise in preventing and dealing with workplace violence. It is intended to assist those who are responsible for establishing workplace violence initiatives at their businesses and Agencies. However, we anticipate that its usefulness will extend well beyond the planning phase since many of the sections provide information that can be helpful for managers and specialists as they deal with difficult workplace violence situations.
Part I of the handbook introduces a process for developing an effective workplace violence program. It guides an Agency or a Business’s planning group through the basic steps of developing programs, policies, and prevention strategies.
Part II presents a set of case studies for the planning group to use in analyzing business needs, planning programs, and training personnel to respond to workplace violence situations. The case studies introduce a wide range of challenges an Agency or Business may face, and they provide discussion questions to help the planning group develop the most effective approach to these challenges.
Basic technical information
Part III offers basic technical information on several areas of expertise that may be involved in workplace violence programs. Its purpose is to serve as a reference for planning group members as they find themselves working with colleagues whose professional background is different from their own. While in no way comprehensive enough to serve as a training manual, it helps the planning group become more familiar with the technical language, legal constraints, and other special issues that each profession brings to the interdisciplinary group.
The guidance is based on the collective expertise and experience of Federal Government law enforcement officers, security specialists, criminal investigators, attorneys, employee relations specialists, Employee Assistance Program counselors, forensic psychologists, and union officials. It consists primarily of "lessons learned" from many years of experience with actual cases involving potentially violent employees. The guidance covers not only incidents of physical violence, such as shootings and assaults, but also the far more prevalent incidents of intimidating, "bullying," and other inappropriate behavior that frighten employees. It covers incidents involving employees and incidents involving individuals from outside the business or agency threatening violence against their employees.
The Importance of Planning
The central theme which emerges from the shared experience of these specialists from different disciplines is this: While some cases of workplace violence can be dealt with swiftly and easily by a manager with the assistance of just one specialist or one office, most cases can be resolved far more easily and effectively if there is a joint effort which has been planned out in advance by specialists from different disciplines.
Many who have never experienced workplace violence say, I don't need to worry about this. It would never happen in my office. Violent incidents are relatively rare, but they do occur, and lives can be lost. A little preparation and investment in prevention now could save a life. There is no strategy that works for every situation, but the likelihood of a successful resolution is much greater if you have prepared ahead of time.
The benefits of a joint effort
The experience of companies or agencies which have developed programs has shown that managers are more willing to confront employees who exhibit disruptive and intimidating behavior when they are supported by a group of specialists who have done their homework and are prepared to reach out to others when they know a situation is beyond their expertise. This team approach promotes creative solutions and much needed support for the manager in dealing with difficult situations that might otherwise be ignored.
Deal with disruptive situations
Ignoring a situation usually results in an escalation of the problem. Morale and productivity are lowered; effective employees leave the organization. On the other hand, dealing effectively with situations like hostility, intimidation, and disruptive types of conflict creates a more productive workplace. This can have a deterrent effect on anyone contemplating or prone to committing acts of physical violence. Employees will see that there are consequences for their actions and that disruptive behavior is not tolerated in their organization.
This handbook is intended to complement existing Federal Government publications on workplace violence, such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's Violence in the Workplace Risk Factors and Prevention Strategies, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Health Care and Social Service Workers.
PDF Version of this Guide [1.9 MB]
Table of Contents
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