Workplace Violence

How safe is your company? Workplace violence has escalated into a national occupational health and safety hazard of epidemic proportions. A study released by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health on July 8, 1996 revealed that an average of 20 American workers are slain and 18,000 are assaulted each week. Fifty-six percent of the workplace homicide victims worked in retailing or other service industries. The riskiest occupation is cab driver, followed by sheriff or bailiff and police officer or detective.

Employers are facing increasing pressure to prevent workplace violence. However, they face liability for both ignoring potential violence nad for taking aggressive action to prevent it. The screening of job applicants in order to prevent workplace violence often conflicts with their rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Civil Rights Law and the Corrections Law.

Managers, human resource professionals, security offices and supervisors should be trained to immediately develop violence-prevention strategies; identify high-risk occupations and workplaces; evaluate factors or situations that might put workers at risk; implement necessary intervention efforts; and safely hire, discipline and terminate employees.

Robert Friedman’s guide How to Prevent Workplace and School Violence Guide explains the following preventive steps:

    • Step One: Know your legal obligations and liabilities.
    • Step Two: Know how to hire and screen employees.
    • Step Four: Know the warning signs.
    • Step Five: Draft an employee/student handbook. For further information, see The Upstart Small Business Legal Guide, by Robert Friedman, (Enterprise/Dearborn, 1999), which is recommended in the 1996 Information Please Almanac and Source Book as an invaluable reference on employee handbooks.
    • Step Six: Implement a reporting system.
    • Step Seven: Establish employee assistance programs.
    • Step Eight: Utilize incident response teams.
    • Step Nine: Know how to deliver bad news.
    • Step Ten: Know when to call the police.