Does your organization have an anti-violence policy? If you don’t, you’re probably not alone. Gary Sheely relates that in a recent workshop with attendees representing almost 200 organizations, when he posed that question, only between half and two-thirds of those present said they had a policy. When asked about a written anti-bullying policy, fewer than half of those present said they had one. The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the number even lower, saying that more 70% of U.S. workplaces do not have programs or policies addressing workplace violence.

Sheely is an author and expert on workplace violence issues. In Occupational Health & Safety, he authors an article on 7 Things You Need to Include in Your Anti-Violence Policy. In addition to offering guidance on elements that a good policy should include, he suggests several things to avoid in your policy.

But putting together a policy and a program is more than just drafting a quick statement. There are some initial steps you should take, according to Susan Hartmus Hiser of The Murray Law Group in her HR Daily Advisor article, Considerations in Drafting a Policy on Workplace Violence. She says:

“Before drafting such a policy, however, you should think through some important preliminary issues. First, you must consider whether your management team will support your proposed policy. Do you have the necessary funding for the implementation of your policy? Does your corporate environment encourage victims to be forthcoming about violent occurrences in the workplace without fear of retaliation or subsequent victimization by the company? Also, does the company prioritize the issue of employee safety in the workplace? Before drafting a workplace violence policy, you should consider how your management team will demonstrate the company’s support.”

She continues with several other considerations, including a comprehensive analysis of workplace safety, a plan for communicating your policy and training both employees and supervisors. She also notes that, “Because your company may be able to use its written policy and post-incident response as a defense in litigation that may arise, you should think about how you will respond and what investigative techniques you will use should an incident of workplace violence occur.”

The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) role in work violence prevention & response

We’re in favor of every organization having an anti-violence policy and plan in place. One step that we would add is to integrate your EAP into your plans. If red flags surface, or at the first sign of any anger issues that do not rise to the disciplinary level of termination, refer the employee to the company’s Employee Assistance Program for anger management counseling and for an assessment so that any underlying mental health or personal issues are identified and addressed. 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. A Fitness for Duty exam is another potentially helpful tool if behavior indicates potential mental health issues. A good EAP can also be an vital resource and key team-member in post-incident response should any violence occur in your workplace.

Violence prevention – Tools & resources

Managing the Threats of Workplace Violence
(PDF) CNA and the Center for Personal Protection & Safety offer a guide to Managing the Threats of Workplace Violence, which relies on guidelines from the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) on violence prevention and intervention. The Guide covers mitigating workplace violence, discusses a Workplace Violence Prevention Policy and offers information on these areas:

  • Types of Work Violence
  • Vulnerability Assessment or “Gap Analysis” .
  • Training and Education – Tiered Approach
  • Policies and Procedures
  • Awareness Training
  • Managers and Supervisors Training
  • Threat Management Team Training
  • Crisis Management and Executive Team
  • Common Risk Management Strategies
  • Responding to Threats
  • Post-Incident Response

Workplace Violence: Best Practices for Prevention and Resilience Resource Page – presented at the 2018 Washington State Governor’s Industrial Safety and Health Conference. Excellent resources, focusing on healthcare environments.

Previously on our blog

Planning terminations that involve potentially violent employees

Updated February 2024


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