June 12, 2017

How to Identify Workplace Violence Before It Turns Deadly

Weekly HR – Workplace Violence

How to Identify Workplace Violence Before It Turns Deadly

On June 5th, a recently discharged and disgruntled employee in Florida came back to his former employer and killed five employees before killing himself. It is our job as an employer to take steps now to prevent tragic situations such as this from occurring, or at least to be prepared to handle it if it does occur.  You can start preparations by reviewing Violence Free, a global violence prevention firm’s list of seven factors that can lead to workplace violence, which are listed below:

  1. A weak, misunderstood or nonexistent policy against all forms of violence in the workplace.
  2. Failure to educate managers and supervisors in recognizing early warning signs or symptoms of impending violence and their responsibility to take action.
  3. No appropriate and safe mechanism for reporting violent or threatening behavior.
  4. Failure to take immediate action against those who have threatened or committed acts of workplace violence.
  5. Inadequate physical security.
  6. Negligence in the hiring, training, supervision, discipline and retention of employees.
  7. Lack of employee support systems.

In addition to being aware of the signs, be sure to address the specific safety needs of all your city departments.  Are your locks, alarms and emergency exits all in working order? Do you have a procedure for preventing unauthorized access to city buildings? Are your walkways, parking lots and other outdoor areas well lit? Can an employee easily signal for help?  Be certain to consider preventative measures and safe practices for the following specific situations within your violence prevention policy:

  • Exchanging money with the public
  • Working with volatile, unstable people
  • Working alone or in isolated areas
  • Providing services
  • Working late at night
  • Working in areas with high crime rates

Take the time now to look at your own city.  Have you addressed the specific safety needs of all your departments? Do you have a policy? What do your policies state about workplace violence?  Does the policy provide an appropriate mechanism for reporting violent conduct? Are your employees and supervisors trained on your policies?  If an employee files a complaint of workplace violence who should handle it?  How do you handle it?  If you ignore it and say “It couldn't happen here,” you may come to regret that decision. 

For policies and training on workplace violence or other personnel matters, contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, personnel services specialist.