As the pandemic continues into its ninth month, employees across the nation are feeling the effects of ongoing stress, anxiety and loss. According to recent studies, this turmoil has triggered skyrocketing levels of depression, substance abuse and violence.

Now, as we enter the final stretch of election season, political divisiveness and uncertainty are eroding our emotional well-being even further. Communities and workplaces are feeling the strain.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, federal law entitles all employees to a safe work environment. With the addition of the 1970 General Duty Clause, OSHA has a means “to address hazards for which there is no standard on the books.” In other words, employers can be held liable for workplace violence.

Why have a workforce violence prevention plan?
Although cases involving workplace violence represent a small minority of OSHA violations, employers should do all they can to ensure their work environments remain safe and free from workplace violence. It’s the right thing to do for a variety of reasons:

  • All employees deserve a secure environment. Employees want to perform their work duties safely and return home safely after work.
  • It’s a valuable investment. Employers invest heavily in employee recruitment and retention. Losing quality employees because they do not feel safe can harm an organization’s bottom line and reputation.
  • Increased safety leads to a more productive environment. A well-executed violence prevention program leads to a healthier and safer work environment, allowing employees to be more focused and productive.

What to consider when creating a plan
To create a successful workplace violence prevention plan, it’ important to consider several key factors.  First, of course, is to have a plan. Although many plans include a zero-tolerance policy, it’s helpful to realize there is no one-size-fits-all solution, as explained in this earlier post, When Zero Tolerance Needs More Teeth.

It’s also important to train employees upon hire and throughout their employment. Training should cover the plan’s policies and procedures. It should also cover the reporting process, asking for help, developing situational awareness and de-escalating potentially violent situations.

A commitment from all levels of management is key to success. Leadership should create policies and make them visible, establish organizational structure and provide funding (and time) for needed resources. Leadership should also ensure employees a secure process for reporting concerns and that all incidents will be taken seriously.

Is now the time to revisit your workplace violence prevention plans and resources?

At FEI, we help organizations and their employees overcome challenges in four different ways—through our employee assistance program, organizational development, workplace violence prevention and crisis management. To learn more, please contact us.