How to Identify Workplace Violence Before It Turns Deadly
On May 31st a city employee in Virginia Beach gunned down 11 city employees and a contractor for reasons that are still unknown. On July 10th, a recently discharged and disgruntled employee in Florida returned to his former employer and attempted to run over four city employees. The statistics regarding workplace violence continue to rise as we see incidents on an almost regular basis. Employers must take steps now to prevent such tragic situations from occurring, or to at least be prepared if they do occur.
OSHA’s General Duty Clause and Kentucky law require that employers provide places of “employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm” to employees. Cities can review workplace violence information, prevention programs and risk factors that are found on the OSHA website. Workplace violence risk factors include:
· A weak, misunderstood or nonexistent policy against all forms of violence in the workplace
· Failure to educate managers and supervisors in recognizing early warning signs or symptoms of impending violence and their responsibility to take action
· No appropriate and safe mechanism for reporting violent or threatening behavior
· Failure to take immediate action against those who have threatened or committed acts of workplace violence
· Inadequate security
· Negligence in the hiring, training, supervision, discipline and retention of employees
Lack of employee support systems
In addition to being aware of the risks, 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. 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 and what is the process? If you ignore it and say, “it couldn't happen here,” you may come to regret that decision.
For more information on workplace violence and bullying plan to attend ‘Understanding, Defining and Preventing Workplace Violence and Bullying’ at the KLC Conference September 24-27 in Covington or contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, Personnel Services Manager or Courtney Risk Straw, Personnel Services Attorney.