OSEA Safety Blog

Understanding and Addressing Workplace Violence

Wednesday, March 20, 2024 Natalie Gruka

Workplace violence is an unfortunate reality that poses significant dangers to organizations of all sizes. In recent years, news headlines have been filled with tragic stories of individuals being killed or injured as a result of violence in the workplace. To reduce this threat and ensure the safety and well-being of employees, it is important for organizations to implement safety procedures, response protocols, conflict resolution strategies, and vigilant monitoring of warning signs.

Safety Procedures:

Establishing clear safety procedures is paramount in preventing and mitigating workplace violence. Here are some essential measures that organizations can adopt:

  • Create a signal system with coworkers to alert others of possible danger.
  • Meet visitors in the lobby and escort them throughout the facility to ensure accountability.
  • Refrain from handling unusual packages and promptly report them to security.
  • Secure personal belongings by keeping purses and other items locked in a desk or locker.
  • Immediately report any signs of a break-in or missing items to the appropriate authorities.

Responding to Violence and Threats:

If you are attacked:

  • Hand over money or jewelry if that’s what the attacker is after.
  • Yell to let others know you’re being attacked
  • Try to run away if you can

If you are dealing with a threatening or angry person:

  • Stay calm or be polite
  • Look the person in the eye
  • Don’t argue, yell, or threaten
  • Get help if the person doesn’t calm down
  • Use your judgement – don’t brush off someone’s threats or harassment and later find yourself or others facing harm.

Conflict Resolution:

Preventing workplace violence often involves addressing underlying conflicts and grievances. Implementing structured conflict resolution processes can help defuse tensions and foster a harmonious work environment. The steps may include:

  • Calling a meeting to address the issue at hand.
  • Establishing ground rules for respectful communication.
  • Identifying and defining the root cause of the conflict.
  • Collaboratively developing solutions to resolve the conflict.
  • Selecting the most viable solution and devising an action plan for implementation.
  • Monitoring progress and evaluating the effectiveness of the resolution.

Warning Signs:

Recognizing warning signs of potential violence is critical for early intervention and prevention. Some common indicators include:

  • Veiled or overt threats of violence.
  • Changes in behavior such as increased irritability or hostility.
  • Deterioration in work performance or withdrawal from colleagues.
  • Substance abuse or reliance on drugs and alcohol.
  • Blaming others or holding grudges.
  • Extreme reactions to workplace events like layoffs or demotions.
  • Symptoms of depression, paranoia, or antisocial behavior.
  • Identification with notorious incidents of workplace violence.

By remaining aware and proactive in identifying and addressing warning signs, organizations can create safer work environments and mitigate the risk of violence. Additionally, encouraging a culture of open communication, empathy, and respect can help prevent conflicts from escalating into potentially dangerous situations.

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