April 29, 2021

How to Identify Workplace Violence Before It Turns Deadly

Unfortunately, the statistics regarding workplace violence continue to rise. Employers must take steps now to prevent such tragic situations from occurring, or to at least be prepared if a situation does occur.

OSHA’s General Duty Clause and Kentucky law require that employers provide a work environment “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 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; and
  • Lack of employee support systems or an employee assistance program (EAP).

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 preventive 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 to the public; 
  • Working late at night; and 
  • Working in areas with high crime rates.

Take the time now to review 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 suspicious, aggressive, and violent conduct? Are your employees and supervisors trained on your policies? When an employee makes a complaint of workplace violence, who will handle it and what is the process? Have you completed a thorough threat assessment to identify areas of vulnerability that are unique to your workforce? If you ignore it and say, “it couldn't happen here,” you may come to regret that decision.

For more information or sample policies contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, personnel services manager, or Justin Hocking, personnel services attorney.