Developing Workplace Violence Prevention and Response Plans - Tilson


Developing Workplace Violence Prevention and Response Plans

Leadership & Management, Strategy & Planning | April 2021

Unfortunately reports of workplace violence have become all too common.  According to a recent Society for Human Resources Management study, almost one quarter of American workers have reported that their workplace has experienced at least one instance of workplace violence.  Fourteen percent said that there was at least one workplace violence incident at their place of employment in the last year.  In the United States, workplace violence is the second leading cause of workplace deaths.  Those are sobering numbers and should be a call to action for all organizations to develop strategies to prevent and prepare for such an incident.  So where should you start?

First, the most important action to take is to develop a plan to help prevent occurrences of workplace violence.  These can include:

  • Ensuring adequate external building lighting
  • Entry and exit security (i.e., keypads, video surveillance)
  • Developing a process for your employees to report incidents, threats or other safety concerns
  • Fostering a culture of open communication so that employees feel safe reporting concerns
  • Offering a mediation program to help resolve workplace disputes
  • Utilizing pre-employment background check screening to identify potentially violent individuals
  • Creating a culture of trust and support
  • Creating a zero-tolerance workplace violence policy that covers employees, vendors, visitors, customers and contractors
  • Completing a worksite analysis in order to identify vulnerabilities to violence
  • Providing regular health and safety training
  • Offer an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) and regularly educate staff about the plan
  • Identifying potential warning signs including:
    • Hostile, disruptive or aggressive behaviors
    • Signs of disengagement from a once friendly and outgoing person
    • Feelings of isolation; withdrawal from friends and co-workers
    • Anxiousness or agitation
    • Prolonged anger
    • Increase in domestic problems affecting an employee
    • Behaviors that cause other employees to feel intimidated

Second, organizations should create an emergency response plan in the event of a workplace violence incident.  A “lock the doors and dial 911” procedure is not enough.  Elements of an emergency response plan may include:

  • Developing a system to know who is in the building at all times (i.e., use of swipe cards, entry and exit keypad)
  • Creating an evacuation plan which include at least two ways in and out of your facility for every employee
  • Creating a shelter-in place plan as evacuation may not always be the best course of action, particularly in an active shooter situation
  • Designating a safe meeting point in the case of evacuation
  • Investing in an Emergency Notification System that will allow you to reach employees via text or phone. These systems allow you to quickly send a message to all employees (and emergency contacts if desired)
  • Designating a code word (“Code Green” for example) in the event of an emergency so that it can be broadcast to quickly notify staff
  • Contacting your local police department. Invite them to tour your facility so that they are familiar with your site in the event of an emergency.  They may also be able to provide resources such as evacuation and active shooter training.
  • Creating an Emergency Response Team (ERT) with members of management and staff fulfilling specific roles including:
    • Incident Commander – helps develop the emergency response plan, oversees training staff regarding the plan, mobilizes members of the ERT during an incident
    • Communications Officer – provides information to staff members and their families in an emergency situation, serves as the point of contact for media and stakeholder inquiries
    • First Aid Responders – trained in use of first aid and CPR

Lastly, all of your prevention and preparation work means nothing without educating your staff.  Review your prevention and emergency response plans on a regular basis and ensure all staff have copies of the plans.  Investing time in prevention and response plans may not guarantee that a workplace violence incident won’t happen, but it is critical to achieving optimal outcomes in the event one should occur.

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