Have you ever felt unsafe at your work? With deadlines to meet, projects to finish, and team members to supervise, you have enough to worry about during the week without fretting about your personal safety as well.
Unfortunately, the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that millions of employees face workplace violence every year. Many of these people love their jobs and need to work to support their loved ones. However, violence in the workplace due to robberies or threats from coworkers threaten their ability to perform their job without fear.
You have a legal right to your safety at your employment-and you have resources to protect your well-being while on the job. To make your workplace a safe environment for all employees and staff, follow these eight steps to keep yourself or those around you from becoming victims of workplace violence.
Perform Criminal Background Checks
When you hire new employees, you want to ensure that they will contribute to your team, not pose a threat to your employees’ safety. Call references from past jobs and ask for a criminal background check to find out if prospective employees could pose a hazard to harmony in your workplace.
Train Receptionists to Spot Signs of Danger
Even if all of your staff are trustworthy, nonviolent individuals, threats to your work environment can still come to your work from outside. Robberies or assaults can also occur via customers or passersby.
If you have a physical storefront and a receptionist on staff, train your front desk personnel to be observant about any signs of strange of threatening behavior. In your training manual, include instructions for what to do in case of a belligerent customer, or in a worst-case scenario, how to behave during a robbery.
When you organize a plan for your employees, you empower them to act in a stressful situation and you prepare them to defend themselves if the need arises.
Establish a Zero-Tolerance Policy towards Workplace Violence
Inform your employees that you do not issue warnings for physical threats or weapons on the premises of your work. Involve HR personnel in training your employees on what constitutes harassment or assault, and follow up with your employees. Let them know that they can always approach HR or call a hotline to report inappropriate behavior if they don’t feel comfortable talking to you.
Enforce Your Policies-and Write Them Down
If and when victims come to you with their problems, sympathize with them-and let them know they can trust you. Many workplace crimes go unreported for too long because victims feel embarrassed or ashamed to come forward and speak the truth.
Respond to all threats quickly and enforce your zero-tolerance policy by terminating any employees that assault, sexually harass, or bring weapons to your workplace. When you have a written policy and ensure that all employees adhere to these guidelines, you prevent future incidents before they occur.
Talk to your team about having a third-party objective witness mediate office conflicts. Once you establish a routine policy, you’ll have a set way to respond when you notice tension between coworkers or between a manager and subordinates.
With recent shootings and tragedies on job sites, you’ll want to have a program in place to help resolve personal and professional differences before they come to blows.
Document Threatening Behavior
You should also ask the designated mediator to document any outlandish or imposing behavior that could lead to violence. Mediators and supervisors can help you document clashes between coworkers and report potential problems.
When you keep a record of minor skirmishes, you have evidence that can determine the best way to resolve conflict.
A written record also acknowledges your attempts to resolve the problem peacefully, should a lawsuit ever arise.
Encourage Your Employees to Never Be Alone
Front-line workers left to themselves look like an easy target to thieves and assailants. Keep your employees in teams of two to create an image of teamwork and provide backup in case of an emergency.
Since many employees face threats coming in and out of work, also encourage them to travel together whenever possible.
Increase Your Office Security
If your office is located in a sketchy part of town, or if you regularly employ after-hours workers, the physical location and schedule of your workplace could put your employees at risk. Thanks to modern technology, you can employ security cameras and automatic locks to protect your employees from outside threats.
If you fear retaliation by former employees, you can also hire a security guard and finalize a list of personae non gratae.
Though you can’t always predict behavior that threatens the well-being of your workplace, taking these eight steps is a good start.
If despite your best efforts your employees face violence in the workplace, consult a lawyer as soon as possible. Your legal counsel can help you modify your policies or even defend your company from a lawsuit.