All one has to do is turn on the television or log into social media and news of workplace violence is a pandemic of modern culture. Just how widespread are such tragic occurrences? The numbers are staggering — each year, such reports exceed two million, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The outcomes of these reports can prove devastating, leaving employers grasping for ways to ensure a safe work environment for employees. The harsh reality is that this is no small endeavor; but instead, a leading national issue for those in the United States.
In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that disillusioned employees, hostile customers, as well as robberies and domestic disputes can be attributed to over 2,000 firearms deaths in the workplace between 2011 and 2015.
Let’s look at ways employers can help keep employees safe…
Business leaders can’t control everything; however, they can take solid steps to help keep their employees safe. The first step is to make sure that no one — other than those with appropriate permissions — can access the workplace.
All entrances and exits should be secured and a solution to monitor and achieve a reliable access system should be implemented. When these steps are in place, staff will use items such as keys, cards, fobs, fingerprints, or smartphone applications to gain access. Clarifying appropriate traffic through a designated entry point can minimize disruption and further improve safety. Receptionists, who are often taxed to act as security detail, will also benefit from electronic sign-in systems, particularly during hours of high traffic.
Leadership should review current policies and assess potential gaps to determine what should be included in an official policy about workplace safety. It’s important that businesses review state laws, as there is no tried-and-true approach nationwide, and individual state laws may differ slightly.
Putting a workplace policy in place helps, but it is equally critical that it is regularly communicated and enforced, so all employees are aware of – and abide by – the policies. Some examples of workplace safety policies to consider include:
- Clear policies on guns or other weapons in the workplace. If guns are not permitted, include details on consequences if the policy is violated.
- Workplace harassment policies that comply with both ADEA and ADA acts, and enforced by the EEOC. Visit the EEOC website for additional details and guidance.
- Policies on how to report other harassing or threatening behavior – either between employees, or involving employees and third parties, including threats of domestic violence.
It is a best practice for decision-makers to review issues regularly and update company policy on a yearly basis. They need to be clear as to what actions are deemed “violent” and select appropriate repercussions that follow a determined process. This will help management to handle matters in an effective manner, keeping the well-being of all employees at the forefront of efforts.
Last but not least, employees must be trained in proper policies and procedures so they are prepared if and when a violent event in the workplace happens.
Installing an alarm system and video capabilities can also lead to a safer workplace. Systems that alert employees and law enforcement of any issues early on can greatly help to reduce risk.
Ultimately, giving employees access to alarms, granting the knowledge of how to flee and when, as well as maintaining surveillance systems, can be both a stellar deterrent as well as a way to avoid violent events. In cases where an incident does occur, video footage collected at the scene can provide police and investigators with the tools they need to discern the situation effectively.
Insure for the Future
How should a company plan for unexpected events such as violence in the workplace?
Inviting law enforcement officers to visit the offices and facilities is a great idea — they could very well see dangers staff and management might overlook. Tap security system providers for tips that they feel could improve their equipment offerings, and also asking an insurance agent to assess risks – human as well as financial – could prove valuable. These advocates can help business leaders create a safer workplace.
At Acadia Insurance, we are here to answer any questions you may have. To find an agent near you, visit acadiainsurance.com.
Acadia is pleased to share this material for the benefit of its customers. Please note, however, that nothing herein should be construed as either legal advice or the provision of professional consulting services. This material is for informational purposes only, and while reasonable care has been utilized in compiling this information, no warranty or representation is made as to accuracy or completeness.