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. Three to four workers are killed every day by workplace violence. Roughly one million are assaulted annually. It is the leading cause of death in the workplace among women and the second leading cause of death for men. Each year two million people are victims of workplace violence ranging from verbal threats to homicide.
Under Section 5(a)(1) of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act 16 or the general duty clause, OSHA uses this clause to make employers take steps to reduce or eliminate “recognized” workplace hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees. In a 1992 memorandum, OSHA interpreted this duty of employers to include, or at least not exclude, reducing or eliminating criminal acts of violence that are recognized in a particular employment arena as part of the nature of doing business. They also stated that criminal acts that could not be recognized or that were deemed uncharacteristic were exempt. An example of this in action is the Taxi Barrier Ordinances. This required a sheet of bullet proof glass to be installed between the driver and his/her customer. Several cities enacted this ordnance and r4ecorded the results (Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Baltimore, Boston, Albany (New York), and Oakland (California)).Baltimore took recorded instances of assault in the 12 months prior to the glass installation and 12 months after in 1996. Assaults on taxi drivers decreased 56%. It is figured that a cab driver with the barriers is 5 times less likely to be assaulted than a cab driver in 1991 without one.
Sample policy and procedure
A sample company statement from Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence
(Company Name) strictly prohibits use of violence or threats of violence in the workplace and views such actions very seriously. The possession of weapons in the workplace, threats, threatening or menacing behavior, stalking, or acts of violence against employees, visitors, guests, or other individuals by anyone on (Company Name) property will not be tolerated. Violations of this policy will lead to disciplinary actions up to and including termination of employment and the involvement of appropriate law enforcement authorities as needed.
Any person who makes substantial threats, exhibits threatening behavior, or engages in violent acts on (Company Name) premises shall be removed from the property as quickly as safety permits, and may be asked to remain away from (Company Name) premises pending the outcome of an investigation into the incident. People who commit these acts outside the workplace but which impact the workplace are also violating this policy and will be dealt with appropriately. (Company Name) reserves the right to respond to any actual or perceived acts of violence in a manner we see fit according to the particular facts and circumstances.
When threatening behavior is exhibited or acts of violence are committed, (Company Name) will initiate an appropriate response. This response may include, but is not limited to, evaluation by (Company Name) Employee Assistance Professionals and/or external professionals, suspension and/or termination of any business relationship, reassignment of job duties, suspension or termination of employment, and/or criminal prosecution of the person/persons involved.
No existing (Company Name) policy, practice, or procedure should be interpreted to prohibit decisions designed to prevent a threat from being carried out, a violent act from occurring, or a life-threatening situation from developing.
According to Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence, these are some tips for employers and employees.
- Encourage the employee to save any threatening e-mail or voice-mail messages. These can potentially be used for future legal action, or can serve as evidence that an existing restraining order was violated.
- The employee should obtain a restraining order that includes the workplace, and keep a copy on hand at all times. The employee may consider providing a copy to the police, his/her supervisor, security, or human resources [or appropriate individuals/departments within your company].
- The employee should provide a picture of the perpetrator to reception areas and/or security.
- The employee should identify an emergency contact person should the employer be unable to contact the victim.
- If an absence is deemed appropriate, the employee should be clear about the plan to return to work. While absent, the employee should maintain contact with the appropriate Human Resources personnel
- Arrange the victim to have priority parking near the building.
- Have calls screened, transferring harassing calls to security-or have the employee’s name removed from automated phone directories.
- Limit information about employees disclosed by phone. Information that would help locate a victim or indicates a time of return should not be provided.
- Relocate the employee’s workspace to a more secure area or another site.
- The employer should have trained EAP professionals or external professionals assist the employee with development of a safety plan.
- Work with local law enforcement personnel, and encourage employees to do so regarding situations outside the workplace.
Safety training videos