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Workplace Violence

Given the tragic events that took place in the United States and continue unfolding worldwide, I thought it prudent to address the different types of violence found in the workplace – and how they should be properly handled.

Violence in the Workplace
Violence in the workplace is defined as any and all intentional behavior or conduct that occurs on the facility’s premises that affects or could affect the safety or well being of any employee, visitor or operation. It does not have to be initiated by an employee:

Workplace violence includes any of the following:

  • Threatening communication - verbal, written and/or electronic
  • Physical injury or potential physical harm to another person
  • An aggressive or hostile action which creates a reasonable fear of injury to employees, or subjects employees to emotion distress
  • Intentional damage to property and/or the property of an employee or visitor
  • A person possessing and threatening to use weapons
  • A harmful or potentially harmful action motivated by or related to sexual orientation, race, religion, national origin, marital status, political beliefs, age, physical or mental disabilities, or domestic situation.

There are three general classifications of workplace violence. They consist of a situation that is immediate and harmful, one that is not immediate but harmful, and a situation that is of genuine concern.

Immediate and Harmful
Situations that are immediate and harmful can include a terminated employee physically threatening his/her supervisor; a threat from a domestic partner or an employee threatening another employee with a weapon. Any object that an individual can use to cause harm to another individual is considered a weapon.

If immediate and harmful behavior is observed, learned or reported there are several actions to take. First, call 911 to notify the police of the situation and inform key managers of the situation. Then take appropriate steps to protect employees, visitors and property. In multi-plant operations, senior management must be notified – after employees are safe. Finally, don’t forget your record keeping. Make note of persons involved, others who may have information, the nature of the threat, when the threat was made, any action taken by involved parties, the cause of the threat, the potential that the threat will be carried out, where the event may occur and any other information that may help investigate the situation.

Note: It would be in your best interest to have preprinted forms listing these items to help your management team remember what information is important to obtain and to have a place to document that information.

Not Immediate But Could Be Harmful
The second type of situation is one that is not immediate but could be harmful. Examples of these types of situations include a threat received via U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, voice or e-mail; an employee who is the target of harassment due to race, sexual orientation or gender; and intentional or criminal related property damage.

If behavior or conduct is observed, learned or reported and is considered to be not immediate but could be harmful, the following actions should be taken. After calling 911 to notify the police, notify the key manager of the situation and anyone outside the immediate facility who should be informed. Depending on the situation, appropriate steps should be taken to protect employees, visitors and property. Finally, the record keeping information discussed above should be recorded.

Genuine Concern
Last but not least are genuine concern situations. These situations include an employee discussing his/her displeasure about his/her supervisor in an unreasonable and hostile manner or an employee’s demeanor or attitude that is radically abnormal and affecting co-workers.

For situations of genuine concern, key managers should be notified immediately and appropriate steps should be taken to protect employees, visitors and property. In a multi-plant operation, senior management should be notified after employees are safe. Finally, a record keeping form with information regarding the incident should be completed.

Although post-incident responses to an incident may vary, the following steps should always be taken. All personnel should be made aware of the incident and ensured that management is taking appropriate steps. The facility should be secured and reasonably protected, and if the situation warrants, professional security guards or police services should be enlisted. Depending on the situation, it may be time to activate an Employee Assistance Program since some employees may need counseling. Remember, when communicating with local media outlets maintain as positive a manner as possible. As part of the investigation, take photographs, and secure evidence for your insurance company.

Note: The police should secure evidence related to a criminal investigation. Finally, assess your ability to resume normal operations. If your situation or current condition of operations will affect your customers, let them know what to expect from your company.

As a preventative measure, it would be advisable to conduct a security survey of your facility to assess the current state of your security system. The money spent making improvements where necessary would bring peace-of-mind to both you and your employees. Having a secure facility is the first step in preventing violence in the workplace.

Have a safe month!

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Employee Crushes Hand on Ironer

SOMMERVILLE, Mass. — A commercial laundry has been fined by OSHA after an employee’s had was crushed while lubricating the chain of an ironer that was running. The OSHA inspection found that the machine was not de-energized prior to the maintenance that was attempted. Royal Institutional Services Inc., has been cited by OSHA for four alleged violations of workplace safety standards. The laundry, owned by Angelica Corp., faces a total of $49,935 in proposed fines.