The nation mourns for the Virginia Tech students and teachers who have been killed and wounded in another horrifying and senseless act of violence. While we can’t add much to the wall-to-wall news coverage, we thought it might be fitting to use today’s post to reprint an article on workplace violence prevention that was written by Bill Bowler, our Senior Vice President of Client Services. The article originally appeared in Small-Biz, a publication by the Support Services Alliance, Inc. (SSA).

Bullet proofing your workplace

Taking steps to prevent violence in your business is not only good policy – it’s the law. That’s because the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) general duty clause, which says “an employer is obligated to furnish its employees a workplace free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death and/or serious physical harm,” has been interpreted to include preventable workplace violence.

But isn’t workplace violence unforeseen and random? It may seem that way, but if your workplace is prepared for any eventuality, your valued employees will most likely survive any unforeseen event because they will know how to handle themselves. And it’s up to you, as the business owner, to set the stage for safety.

Consider the following checklist:

  • Draft and enforce a written workplace violence policy that prohibits physical and verbal violence among your employees. Include a statement of consequences “up to and including termination.” Take time to pass it out and explain it to your employees in a dedicated meeting.
  • If your business is retail in nature, be aware that nearly 40% of all workplace homicides occurred last year in that environment. Educate your employees to comply, comply, comply if a robbery occurs. The graveyards are filled with would-be heroes.
  • Train your managers/supervisors to intervene properly if employees are caught fighting. An overly aggressive, “hands-on” approach only escalates the hostility and violence.
  • Consider adding an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) to your benefits mix. Many employees who resort to violence at work are often stressed out by personal, family, financial and legal problems which their EAP can address in a dignified, confidential manner.
  • Although most workplace violence stems from angry current (or former) employees and/or robbery scenarios, be aware of and address potential dangers posed by “outsiders” such as jealous boyfriends or girlfriends, stalkers and angry family members of your employees. Create a secure work area and don’t hesitate to contact the local police to discuss these situations.
  • Teach your employees to be management’s “eyes and ears” and to report threats of violence to you immediately! No one likes to squeal or “rat” on a fellow employee. But, when it comes to reporting statements of this nature, they may be saving lives. Ask them to think of how badly they will feel if the perpetrator takes action that could have been prevented.

Clearly, we live in a time where violent workplace occurrences are common. But you can take charge and take positive steps to bulletproof your business.

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