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Reducing Your Workplace Violence Liability

July 22nd, 2013 Comments off

Having a robust and effective Workplace Violence Prevention Program is now a necessity in terms of reducing your organization’s liability for such events. Denial that anything horrific will ever happen in your workplace is no longer acceptable. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliance and civil liability will often revolve around the legal opinion of whether an act of violence could have been foreseen, and mitigation or prevention steps taken. If the act occurred in your workplace, or in an environment related to your business dealings, your organization would have to answer the often-unclear question of what was “reasonably foreseeable”. There are many different types of incidents that are considered workplace violence and subject to such scrutiny such as:

  • Criminal activity of a violent nature that takes place in your workplace
  • Violence by a customer/client/patient with some relationship to the workplace (even if it occurs in the ‘field’ while on organizational business)
  • Co-worker aggression or bullying
  • Former employee returning to commit ‘revenge violence’
  • Personal relationship violence (domestic violence) unfolding in the workplace

Granted, the final act of violence might happen suddenly but the precursory warning signs that often develop over time, before the culminating incident, need to be addressed. Proper follow up on those warning signs might even prevent the violence from occurring. So, what will be necessary in order to develop a defensible position that your organization had done everything reasonable to anticipate and prevent a violent incident?  Depending on which type of incident occurs, you will need much of the following to build your defense:

  • Crime statistics (trends and recent occurrences) in the geographic location of the workplace
  • Physical security audit at the property
  • Research on crimes and violence typically related to your industry – perhaps from professional associations or peer groups – emphasis on causes that might also apply to your organization within that same industry
  • Records regarding specific acts of inappropriate aggression or violence at your workplace or at other company facilities in the past
  • Records of employee complaints and incidents of “bullying” in the workplace
  • Evidence of a written workplace violence prevention policy
  • Evidence of employee and supervisory training relative to aggressive behavior recognition and reporting responsibilities dictated by the workplace violence prevention policy
  • Development of a case management team for assessment purposes when investigation of an individual or incident is called for
  • Records regarding reports of domestic violence affecting someone in your workforce – especially if it has become noticed at work (you cannot consider this just a personal matter)
  • Evidence of safe termination protocols for individuals where violence or aggression has been an issue or for someone who might be considered high risk for vengeful reaction

This is certainly not a complete list but it is enough to give your organization a good baseline for being prepared. The biggest challenge that any employer has to face is the denial that one of these incidents could happen to them. Having a solid Workplace Violence Prevention Plan is good practice not only legally, but it is the right thing to do for the safety of your employees and visitors.

Check out AFIMAC’s recent course release on “Active Shooter Response” in the online training series on workplace violence at www.imac-training.com

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