Abstract: This paper will discuss workplace violence from many different perspectives. Those perspectives derive from the concern of employers, employees, and society as an entirety. The impact of workplace violence results in homicides, injuries, worker's compensation, and lawsuits. OSHA and businesses are beginning to proactively address workplace violence.
The signs and symptoms of workplace violence are quite apparent if you've been trained and are attentive. The characteristics of those that commit workplace violence vary depending upon many variables which will be discussed. The key to preventing workplace violence is to develop a workplace prevention program which includes a strong disciplinary policy. It will be illustrated how workplace violence can be prevented, if the correct policies, procedures, and training are implemented within an organization.
What is workplace violence? Workplace violence is a worker that is assaulted or threatened by a coworker, spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, stranger, or relative. Workplace violence ranges from verbal altercations, bodily harm, and homicide (www.osha.gov). There are many reasons for workplace violence which will later be discussed. The employer has the main responsibility for preventing workplace violence but it takes everyone's participation to make prevention efforts successful.
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There are four categories of workplace violence. The four categories are as follows (Workplace 2002 2):
Criminal Intent - This is a person that has no relationship with the business or any of the employees. The person is normally using the violence to help commit crime such as a robbery.
Risk Factors for Criminal Intent:
High crime areas - areas that are prone to high crime are areas such in low income neighbors and areas not well lit.
Handling of Money - areas such as retail and grocery stores.
Limit View - Worksite is secluded and very difficult to see from outside.
Working Night Hours - Criminal normally wait until night to commit crimes.
Working alone - Workers are more vulnerable when they work alone, so it is much easier to commit crime in these kind of situations.
Customers & Clients - A person that has a legitimate relationship with whoever is providing a service. The customer becomes angry and displays violent behavior. This is common amongst patients, students, clients, and customers.
Working alone - Customers know that employee is vulnerable and cannot do much.
Nightshift - It's quiet and very easier to take advantage of a worker because less people work at night.
Customer's Violent Past - It can be difficult servicing s person with a violent history because most of the time, they are ill - tempered.
Lack of exits - When there is only one way of escape, they violent customer is most like to start trouble because he or she knows that there is not route of escape.
Worker vs. Worker - This individual could be a former or present employee. These individuals attack or threatened other employees for varies reasons which could be:
Workplace rumor mills
Past up on promotions
Affected by seniority - lay-offs and bumping rotations
No pre-screening of employees
Relaxed disciplinary policy
Stressful and demanding work environment
Supervisors inadequately trained
Personal Relations - The violent person has a personal relationship with coworker. This could be spouse or boyfriend / girlfriend type of situation. The violent temper derives from a previous argument outside the workplace and brought into the workplace.
Workplace easily accessible
No routes of escape
No administrative policy in helping troubled employees
One of the individuals has a violent past
The characteristics of those the commit workplace violent acts are those that (Collins 2001 193):
Is termed as a loner. A loner is one that doesn't socialize as much with coworker.
Have difficulty accepting constructive or any sort of criticism.
Are stressed by change, lay-offs, or downsizing in an organization.
Fanaticize about violence and guns. This individual may talk about violence frequently and maybe be attraction to violent movies such as Rambo, Full Metal Jacket, Faces of Death, and Saving Private Ryan.
Holds grudges against other employees for whatever reasons such as made the other employee is happy spirited, has overlooked for promotion, or raise.
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
Is paranoid and thinks the world is out to get him.
May have experienced a bad childhood.
May have a bully type of personality.
Workplace violence has been taking the lives of many employees in the workforce. Statistics indicate in 2008, a total of 564 were workplace violent related deaths (www.bls.gov). Men account for 80 % of the fatalities reported as a result of workplace violence. The use of guns was the number one contributor to the work related homicides.
Workplace violence continues to be a problem. This year (2010), a teacher in Maryland was murdered by one of the mental health youth inmates. The teacher was known to have a passion for help children with disabilities. The incident was a wake-up call for the State of Maryland government. Maryland's Occupational Safety and Health Administration have been investigating the incident which may end up in a citation under OSHA's general duty clause.
On May 24th, 2010, a man walked into Duke University Health Care Systems and killed his ex-girlfriend Charlene King (www.charlotte-divorce-lawyer-blog.com). There was no protocol for allowing friends or visitors into the facility. The state of North Carolina has experienced 305 workplace related deaths between the years 1997 -2007 which all involved either husbands killing their wives or boyfriends killing girlfriends.
On August 3rd, 2010, a warehouse driver (Omar Thornton) was caught stealing beer on camera (news.yahoo.com). The company had set up a meeting with him to discuss the incident but instead at 7 am, he went on a killing rampage which resulted in 9 deaths. Omar Thornton didn't show any indications of someone that would hurt somebody. The company made the mistake of informing the employee that he was in trouble for beer theft and had set up a meeting. The employer made the mistake of informing the employee of his wrong doings. The protocol should have been to fire the employee on the spot and ban him for entering premises. The employee had time to think and exaggerate the situation which turned into the violent outrage.
The above examples indicate that is much room for improvement for businesses to take workplace violence more seriously and develop workplace prevention programs. Many people and businesses may adopt the attitude that it could not happen to them but they are wrong. It is better to start workplace prevention strategies before it is too late.
Businesses fail to realize that it is their responsibility to provide a hazard free environment for their employees, according the OSH Act of 1970. OSHA has recently become proactive and serious about addressing issues with workplace violence. OSHA encourages all businesses to develop workplace violence program. OSHA has decided to cite employers under the general duty clause, if an employee gets hurt and it is found that the employer did not have a workplace violence prevention program.
In Danbury Connecticut, OSHA cited a hospital for failing to provide a safe working environment for its employees (campussafetymagazine.com). An 86 year old patient shot a nurse with a handgun. The nurse did not die but she could have if the bullet had hit a vital organ. Hospitals seem to experience more workplace violence case compared to other places of employment.
Employers should be really concerned about the consequences of not having a workplace program. The negative consequences could be:
Employee or employees losing his or her life
OSHA issuing huge fines for the failure of not having work violence program.
Employee's family start huge lawsuits.
Consumers refuse to buy products associated with company.
Negative values in the stock market.
An employer that does not have a workplace violence program has not fully fulfilled its obligation in providing a hazard free workplace for its employees. OSHA is cracking down and using the general duty clause to hold employers accountable. Workplace related injuries and deaths are preventable.
Employees are concerned about not having protection from violence while at work. Nurses particularly have been fighting these issues for years. Nurses cry for help has been ignored in the past but OSHA is starting to recognize and address these problems. As mention earlier, a nurse was severely injured by a patient. In Rochester, New York, a nursing supervisor killed two coworkers for accusing him of sexual harassment (www.syracuse.com).
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People do not want to go to work, working in fear. Employees fear reporting coworkers because some if they do report another coworker, management or union representatives may inform the person of who reported. The consequences of reporting may reroute potential workplace violence towards the person whom reported.
Union's overall responsibility is to look out for the best interests of the employees. When one of the members poses a threat, the union will intervene and offer the employee assist with the EAP (Employee Assistance Program). In contrast, the union will cooperate with management if the worker is too out of control. New York State has a workplace prevention program that by law requires union representatives and employees take on active roles in making sure the workplace violence programs are implemented. Unions and management share the same sentiment when it involves workplace violence.
A legal perspective of workplace violence for the employer is a huge responsibility. The employer is ultimately responsible for the hiring practices of their organization (Beaver 1998 1). The employer can be sued for employees being hurt do to workplace under exigent circumstances. A homicide would warrant huge financial penalties and lawsuits. The worker's compensation bar claim says that injuries resulting from workplace violence are compensable. There are cases where companies are sued under special circumstances.
The consequences of workplace violence can have an impact of society. Society also known as the consumer may stop purchasing products affiliated with the organization. In addition, members of the community may try to stop company from doing business by picketing which all also promote negative media. In contrast, societal issues such as the recession could play a big role on workplace violence. Society is affected because the families of those affected by workplace violence also suffer emotionally and financially.
The key to preventing workplace violence is companies must first realize that they are not immune to it (Professional 2006 17). The employer must develop clear policies and procedures for addressing workplace violence. The first step towards preventing workplace violence is incorporating organizational policies for its hiring practices (Gardner 1993 1).
The organization's hiring practices (pre-screening) should include extensive background checks of potential employees before they are hired. The organization must include in their hiring policy and on applications that felony convictions would automatically disqualify the applicant for further employment consideration. In addition, by conducting a background check, the employment recruiter can determine of what type of individuals would most likely promote a safe work environment.
The employer must convey to its employees that it has a zero tolerance policy towards any sort of violence. The employees must be advised before starting employment. It should be clearly emphasized at all employee orientations that any form of violence which includes harassment, sexual harassment, verbal abuse, and bullying would lead to a full investigation which could result in termination.
The employer should establish procedures on protocols for firing personnel to minimize retaliation and workplace violence. This can be accomplished by:
Never informing the employee in advance of being fired.
Ask for employee badge and deactivate all access cards.
Explain to the employee, if they enter property, they will be trespassing and will be arrested.
Automatically request for retraining through local policemen.
The only method to minimize or eliminate workplace violence is to develop a comprehensive workplace violence policy that would be an integral part of an emergency disaster program. The workplace violence program would include the following elements:
Definitions - This would provide definitions of acts considered as workplace violence as sexual harassment, physical violence, bullying, idle threats, and inappropriate aggressive behavior.
Management Responsibilities - Managers must continually enforce and encourage supervisors to report acts which violate workplace violence policies. In addition, investigate all reports of workplace violence,
Supervisor Responsibilities - Supervisors are responsible for maintaining safety with the areas or departments. In addition, responsible for disciplinary and reporting any acts of violence. Also conduct risk assessments on employees which include:
Substandard Work Performance Issues
Any indications of substance abuse
Employee Responsibilities - The employee is usually in a better position to witness workplace violent potential behaviors. Employees are to report any incidences that are considered potential signs of workplace violence.
Threat Management - Threat should be taken seriously and protocol for handling them should be established with police department or human resources.
Supervisor training should consist of:
Learning to be fair and be respectful to employees.
Being consistent at all times.
Reward good performance / behavior but hold accountable for negative performance / behavior.
Recognizing symptoms of potential workplace violent employee.
Handling employees that have gotten out of control.
Knowing emergency response and evacuation plans.
Knowing Reporting Protocols
Employee training should consist of:
Learning the warning signs of violent coworker.
Reporting protocols - Let it be understood that employees with not get in trouble for reporting a potential dangerous employee. All reports will be kept confidential.
Handling coworkers that have gotten out of control - such as remaining calm, maintaining a distance, or asking the employee if they could be assisted in solving problems.
Routes of escape
Never challenge disturbed coworker.
Places of refuge
Disgruntled employees commonly return to place of employment for retaliation. People that do not work for the employer are also a threat. It is important for employers to minimize unlawful entry by having entry doors that can be open only by an employee badge. In addition, security personnel, security gates, fences, cameras, and proper lighting also minimize outside intruders from entering premises.
The reason why workplace violence continues to take so many lives is because the elements in this paper are not being followed. OSHA has set guidelines for preventing workplace violence but the decision if left to the employer whether to implement it or not. We can now see that workplace violence can occur in any organization. Simple policies and procedures could save lives. Employers must start to be proactive in preventing workplace violence because it is their responsibility to maintain a hazard free work environment.