A disgruntled office worker brings a gun to work on the day he plans to quit, a remote employee attacks a customer, an employee is bullied by co-workers until she has a nervous breakdown. We hear about workplace violence events in the news often, yet in many cases these tragedies could have been avoided simply be designing a workplace violence policy for prevention and response.

All companies are required by OSHA to provide a safe work environment for employees.Therefore, it’s up to the HR department to develop an anti-violence policy and response plan for handling these incidents.

Today, I’d like to share 6 best practices for establishing workplace violence policies –

To prevent episodes of violence in the workplace, there are some things you can do as a business owner/HR practitioner.

#1  – Conduct an on-site risk assessment with a local corporate safety or security advisor.

If you are concerned about possible risks of violence in your workplace, or if you work in an industry that has high turnover due to a stressful work environment, you will want to take the time to work with a local security firm to identify ways to prevent and reduce violence at work.

Do a walk through to evaluate what areas of your company may be at risk, both from the inside and outside. And don’t forget threats from email and social media sites, which can also cause employees to feel unsafe.

#2 – Communicate a zero tolerance policy for any form of violence.

Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. This can include insidious forms of workplace violence such as bullying, disrespect, racism, sexism, and making verbal threats and physical gestures both on and off the job.

This also goes for violence that comes from the outside, from customers, from spouses or family members, and the general community.

As a responsible organization, you must carefully conduct a pre-employment criminal background check for all new hires. You should also state that you have a ZERO TOLERANCE for this behavior. State this clearly at new employee orientation sessions, during training meetings, and in the corporate handbook. Make sure you also include specific steps for reporting any events to HR immediately.

#3  – Encourage an open door communication system for all employees

Give employees the confidence that they can step into your HR office anytime they need to – to talk about any problems with co-workers, management, or customers. This is especially important because communication can bridge the gap between employees who are struggling in their personal lives, or on the job with co-workers and management. Providing everyone with a safe space where they can seek guidance and support, without fear of reprisal, is absolutely critical to reducing workplace violence.

#4 – Report any suspected employee tensions or conflicts with your management team.

Again this goes back to having an open door policy for your company. As you develop your written guidelines for violence prevention, make sure this includes a communication policy that encourages employees to report this to a supervisor or HR immediately.

This also goes for employees who are experiencing violence at home and need support to get out of a bad situation. Recent statistics from the US Department of Labor indicate that in nearly 2 out of every 5 homicides to female workers, the assailants were relatives, with almost all of the relatives being spouses or domestic partners (current and former). It’s important to be aware of any potential threats.

#5 – If an incident occurs, have a plan to take immediate action, document, and notify the authorities.

Even with a well-developed workplace violence prevention program in place, sometimes workplace violence occurs. This means you need to be prepared with a system for taking action to protect your employees, and a way to document and report this event swiftly.

Add a workplace violence section into your emergency response plan, with a designated area where employees may escape to safety if an event happens. Instruct all employees to notify the proper authorities should an event occur, and have a printed phone number for the local police and fire department available near all phones.

Assign a team leader for each department to guide employees in the event violence occurs onsite. As part of this plan, have an updated list of emergency contacts for your staff members so you can alert family members after the event with a status. And have a local security firm on contract for follow-up consulting, education, and support for the affected employees.

#6 –Because workplace violence often centers around an unsuspected change of status for an employee

I’d like to leave you with the following final guidelines for handling employee disciplinary meetings and terminations:
•    Schedule meetings at the end of the work week, end of the day
•    Respect the individual
•    Offer support and alternatives
•    Document everything

Need help drafting a workplace violence policy for your organization? Contact The HR Writer today for writing support and expert guidance!

Tess Taylor

Tess Taylor is the Founder and CEO of HR Knows

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