On Fri­day, Feb­ru­ary 15, 2019, five employ­ees of a man­u­fac­tur­er in Auro­ra, Illi­nois, were killed by an employ­ee they were about to ter­mi­nate as they met in a con­fer­ence room. Among the vic­tims were the human resources direc­tor and a young HR intern at his first day on the job. This is just the lat­est inci­dence of gun vio­lence at a workplace.

The Occu­pa­tion­al Safe­ty and Health Admin­is­tra­tion (OSHA) esti­mates that every year, near­ly two mil­lion U.S. work­ers are vic­tims of work­place vio­lence. Accord­ing to the most recent Bureau of Labor Sta­tis­tics Cen­sus, homi­cide account­ed for 10 per­cent of all fatal work­place injuries in 2016. And an FBI study found that busi­ness­es were the set­ting for near­ly half of 160 active-shoot­er inci­dents over a 13-year-peri­od the agency examined.

Work­place vio­lence takes many forms, includ­ing homi­cide, assault, stalk­ing, threat­en­ing words, threat­en­ing con­duct, and harass­ment. It results in a decline in employ­ee morale, man­age­ment inef­fi­cien­cies, and decreased pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. Employ­ers also bear the bur­den of work­place vio­lence because its con­se­quences include sig­nif­i­cant costs in lost wages, employ­ee absences, and increased ben­e­fit payments.

Employ­ers have a duty to pro­vide a safe work­place and must pre­vent work­place vio­lence to pro­tect their employ­ees and avoid liability.

How a Policy Can Help

A well-writ­ten and imple­ment­ed work­place vio­lence pre­ven­tion pol­i­cy — com­bined with engi­neer­ing con­trols, admin­is­tra­tive con­trols, and train­ing — can reduce the inci­dence of work­place vio­lence. This pol­i­cy can stand on its own or be incor­po­rat­ed into an injury and ill­ness pre­ven­tion pro­gram, employ­ee hand­book, or oper­a­tions manual.

The goals of any work­place vio­lence pre­ven­tion pol­i­cy are two-fold:

  • Reduce the prob­a­bil­i­ty of threats or acts of vio­lence in the workplace.
  • Ensure that any inci­dent, com­plaint, or report of vio­lence is imme­di­ate­ly addressed and prop­er­ly managed.

The pri­ma­ry com­po­nents of a work­place vio­lence pre­ven­tion pol­i­cy include clear­ly defined report­ing and response pro­ce­dures, a work­place secu­ri­ty risk eval­u­a­tion, pre­ven­tion tools, manda­to­ry train­ing, and oth­er nec­es­sary sup­port ser­vices. Employ­ers must inform employ­ees of the require­ments of applic­a­ble state and fed­er­al law, the risk fac­tors in their work­place, and the loca­tion of the writ­ten work­place vio­lence pre­ven­tion program.

It’s impor­tant that all work­ers are informed of the pol­i­cy and under­stand that man­age­ment strives to keep all employ­ees safe in the work­place and will take all con­cerns seriously.


by Rachel Sobel
Orig­i­nal­ly post­ed on ThinkHR.com