The Role of Investigations in Workplace Violence Prevention

The Role of Investigations in Workplace Violence Prevention

Investigating every incident can keep workplace violence from escalating or occurring at all.

Workplace violence is on the rise. Every day we hear about shootings and other forms of violence. This is a problem that can potentially affect every business, no matter the size or number of employees. It only takes one disgruntled employee to commit some type of workplace violence.

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Why You Should Care About Preventing Workplace Violence

Every employer has a duty to prevent workplace violence.

Companies must comply with the general duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which states that each employer must furnish a place of employment that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” Some states also have additional laws that may be imposed on employers.

Workplace Violence Considerations

Workplace violence can take many forms including criminal intent, i.e., being robbed by a stranger; customer or client violence; worker violence; or personal relationship violence, such as a divorce or child custody battle triggering a workplace shooting.

Workplace violence stems from the interaction of three factors: the person committing the violence, the triggering event that motivates the person, and a workplace that is conducive to allowing violence to happen.

When examining workplace violence, there are some factors that should be taken into account:

  • Women are generally more vulnerable to incidents of personal relationship violence.
  • Certain occupations are more vulnerable to workplace violence, including healthcare, social work occupations; government workers; education; professional services; businesses that include interaction with the public, are open after dark and/or serve alcohol.

RELATED: Workplace Violence Investigations: 5 Crucial Steps to Protect Your Employees

How Investigations Can Prevent Workplace Violence

There are steps that can be taken to help prevent an incidence. Employers need to implement strong written policies that include security measures. This is where investigations play a very important role.

Since factors such as disgruntled employees, bullying, harassment, sexual inuendoes, substance abuse, threats, discrimination and more often are triggers for incidents of workplace violence, a thorough investigation of any complaint is a crucial step in prevention efforts. This sends the message that you care and will take the necessary steps to address and correct the situation.

RELATED: Workplace Violence Investigations: The Ultimate Guide

Tips for Workplace Violence Prevention

Employers should always investigate every complaint in a timely manner and follow these general rules:

  • Always conduct background checks (and credit checks if there is money involved in their jobs) on all employees and new hires.
  • Have written policies on workplace violence prevention, weapons in the workplace, non-discrimination and harassment, drug and alcohol use and safety procedures. Policies should include a zero-tolerance policy on harassment, threats and all forms of violence. Conduct a periodic review and update of these polices and make sure to give copies to all employees.
  • Take all complaints seriously and investigate all complaints in a timely manner, whether they’re large or small, verbal or in writing.
  • Conduct periodic risk assessments where you assess potential threats and review security measures.
  • Train employees to recognize warning signs and give them a way to report violence and potential violence. This can include drug and alcohol use, behavioral changes, complaints about the workplace and mood swings or paranoia. The reporting can be anonymous and should have no repercussions.
  • Create an emergency action plan. Communicate and train all personnel on it.
  • Provide blueprints of the facility to all law enforcement and first responders.
  • Screen all visitors and have limited public access to all or portions of the building.
  • Utilize access-card entry systems and ID cards for employees and visitors.
  • Have video surveillance inside and outside the building and use security guards to patrol.
  • Have good lighting on the grounds and parking lots.
  • Have an escort service to and from the parking lot for employees after hours.
  • Utilize metal detectors at building entry points.

Workplace violence prevention may be the most important action you can take for your employees and your business.