Gain perspective on the different types of workplace violence, warning signs to be aware of, reporting and investigation guidance, and active shooter scenarios.
Every year, approximately 2 million people in the US are victims of workplace violence resulting in nearly 1,000 deaths occurring annually.
Workplace violence covers a broad range of unacceptable behavior from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide and refers to any act in which a worker is abused, threated, intimidated or assaulted at their place of employment.
Workplace violence, or threat of violence, may involve employees, clients, customers or visitors and can occur at or outside the workplace or job site.
While there are currently no specific OSHA standards that pertain to workplace violence, the General Duty Clause could apply and violence or threats of violence in all forms are unacceptable workplace behavior.
OSHA General Duty Clause 5(a)(1) Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.
Employees have a responsibility to treat everyone at work with dignity and respect and have the right to expect the same level of behavior from their co-workers.
According to NIOSH, there are four main types of workplace violence:
Examples of workplace violence among co-workers include:
While it might not be possible to accurately predict all episodes of workplace violence, it’s helpful if employees know the indicators and behaviors that might signal an increased risk for violence.
Particularly take note if there is a drastic change in behavior, the frequency and intensity of behavior becomes disruptive, or the person is exhibiting many of the warning behaviors (rather than just one or a few). Warning signs may include:
These situations may cause issues with identifying potential future workplace violence.
Ideally, there will be a zero-tolerance policy towards workplace violence that covers all workers, contractors, visitors and anyone who may come in contact with company personnel. It is critical that all workers know where to find and understand their organization’s health and safety program, including any workplace violence prevention and reporting policies.
If any employee is concerned about a co-worker, or any other person, who shows some or many of the warning signs, they should take action by reporting concerns to a supervisor or to the HR department. All claims of potential or actual workplace violence should be confidential, taken seriously and investigated promptly.
If you are ever concerned a situation at work may become violent, immediately alert your supervisor and follow your organization’s reporting procedures, if you have time to do so. If you cannot quickly exit the area, attempt to de-escalate the situation until help and security can arrive to assist. Stay calm and listen, avoid arguing and use a sincere tone of voice. If the person has threatened physical violence, slowly back away toward a door and try to exit safely.
The deadliest workplace violence scenarios involve an active shooter, who is defined as someone that is "actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.“ The Department of Homeland Security advises all workers to remember this phrase: RUN, HIDE, FIGHT
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