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May 23, 2019

Taking Aim at Workplace Violence

Summary:

OSHA reports that 2 million incidents occur each year, many of which (non-fatal incidents like bullying or harassment) go unreported.

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

Workplace violence can happen any time and anywhere. This session at the RIMS 2019 Annual Conference & Exhibition reviewed a spectrum of workplace violence risk management tactics, including red flags that can foreshadow an event and training on what to do if an event does occur.

Speakers included:

  • Dr. Teresa Bartlett, senior vice president, medical quality, Sedgwick
  • David Rydeen, senior director, risk management, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers
  • Officer Chris Perez, Brockton Police Department

Workplace violence can stem from a variety of issues. Domestic disputes, mental health issues, drug abuse issues, disgruntled employees and racism are all drivers. OSHA reports that 2 million incidents occur each year, many of which (non-fatal incidents like bullying or harassment) go unreported.

Robbery-related homicides and assaults are the leading cause of losses in retail. In this setting, there are tactics to help. For instance, post clear signs that there is limited cash on hand/surveillance cameras in use, maintain an unobstructed view of and from the cash register and sales area and create and train on a clear policy as to what to do in case of an event.

Approximately 70% of attacks occur within the healthcare industry. Train your staff so they know what to do. Frequently involve police and first responders in that training. It is important to have protocols in place when events escalate and train on de-escalation skills.

See also: Workplace Violence: Assessment, Response  

Whatever the industry, it is important to know the warning signs. A mishandled termination or other disciplinary actions are often triggers. Know that you are not required to call someone in to work to terminate the person. Also be aware of weapons on the work site. Listen for motivations. If someone is suicidal, the person probably will not have problems hurting others. Drug or alcohol use on the job is also a red flag.

Try to be aware of employees’ personal circumstances. Your management really is the front-line defense and must be consistent and present. Family conflicts, financial or legal problems and emotional disturbance can all indicate problems. Gently address any noticed changes in a non-threatening way. Start with, “Your energy is different today. Is everything OK?”

Other behaviors to look for are:

  • Increasing belligerence
  • Ominous, specific threats
  • Hypersensitivity to criticism
  • Recent acquisition or fascination with weapons
  • Apparent obsession with a supervisor or coworker or employee grievance
  • Preoccupation with violent themes or interest in recently publicized violent events
  • Outbursts of anger

Know your resources. Meet with local city and country law enforcement in preparation of an emergency. Invite them to your building for a tour. Provide architectural diagrams of the site and make them aware of emergency routes and all entrances/exits.

See also: Broader Approach to Workplace Violence  

Risk managers must focus on designing a customized approach that matches the goals of their organization. Use clinical resources such as mental health professionals and nurses and look to umbrella policies for planning assistance. Plan for post-event strategies, including crisis management companies to meet with witnesses and a plan for HR to go to the homes of those affected and cannot return to work immediately.

Dealing with the aftermath is extremely important, especially for survivors. A variety of PTSD-related conditions can lead to a variety of mental health implications for employees. Access to psychological help will be essential. There are also return-to-work strategies that will need to be applied, including gradual exposure therapy or possibly assigning an employee to a job in a different department. All of these strategies are geared at proving that it is safe to return.

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About the Author

Mark Walls is the vice president, communications and strategic analysis, at Safety National. Mark is also the founder of the Work Comp Analysis Group on LinkedIn, which is the largest discussion community dedicated to workers’ compensation issues.

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