Workplace safety is everyone's responsibility.
We hear about these uncomfortable and often frightening workplace situations more often than we'd like.
A disgruntled ex-employee returning to his old office to "prove a point".
One jilted romantic partner harassing their former flame at their business.
An upset customer attacking a staff member for subpar service.
Death threats flooding a company's email from anonymous senders.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workplace violence is defined as "any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers, and visitors."
Unfortunately, many of these situations go unreported due to issues such as fear of retaliation or lack of workplace procedures. It's time for all employers large and small to take action in protecting their employees both on-site and off, as well as providing resources in situations of escalating domestic violence because workplace violence actually comes at a cost. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reported that over $120 billion is spent annually due to instances of violence in the workplace and it's estimated each year that 8 million days of paid work is lost nationwide because of domestic violence.
So what can employers do to provide a safer working environment as well as encourage off-site safety?
- Create a zero-tolerance workplace violence policy that includes all personnel and those they come into contact with.
- Assess worksites to identify where potential dangers could become present.
- Ensure all personnel knows and understands the company's workplace violence policy and stress that all incidents will be dealt with immediately.
- Consult workplace violence prevention specialists who can provide on-site training for issues such as active shooter situations, threat assessment, assisted termination support, and worksite security surveys.
- Empower employees to speak up with any concerns about their personal safety while on the job.
- If an employee travels alone frequently, establish a check-in system so that the company knows the employee made it to their destination safely.
- Encourage employees to request on-site security guard escorts to their cars if they leave at night.
For employees undergoing a domestic violence situation, an employer could provide a serious lifeline for them, especially if the threatening partner is creating trouble during work hours.
- Articulate your concerns privately to the employee in question.
- Ask if there are certain changes that can be made to improve their safety while at work.
- Encourage them to seek counseling and provide referrals to domestic violence support groups and resources.
- Do not make them feel like they could lose their job or that they're at fault if they stay with their partner. Isolation often perpetuates a victim's need to stay with an abusive partner.
- Make the abuser known to security staff. Providing a physical description or photograph to security personnel can help keep them on the lookout if the abuser arrives on-site.
It's scary. It's uncomfortable. It needs to be talked about. Providing a safe working environment is part of a healthy society and employers need to be aware as to how they can improve their on- and off-site workplace safety and provide resources to those who are in unsafe situations while at home. Companies owe it to their employees to never ignore their safety.