Preventing Workplace Violence and Other Abuses

Dr. Purushothaman
December 6, 2013

Workplace violence is a serious problem in California. According to a recent study, a Californian worker is more likely to be killed from an assault in workplace than in a car accident.

In 2005, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics also conducted a survey on workplace violence which revealed that 5 percent of the 7.1 privately-owned businesses across the country have reported incidents of violence within the past year. To make matters worse, 9 percent of US employers have no policy to address this problem.

According to lawyers, many courts have found employers directly liable for workplace violence for ignoring a worker's complaint about physical assaults and paying no attention to the violent behavior of their employees.

On the other hand, there has been an increase in lawsuits filed by employees who think that other security measures such as installation of surveillance camera have violated their rights of privacy. However, courts always rule in favor of workplace safety.

With this looming problem, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued guidelines to help employers address workplace violence and prevent this from happening.

OSHA's guidelines to prevent violence and abuses in workplace:

1. Management commitment and employee involvement. Employers and supervisors should take violence seriously and should report to authorities if there is an incident of aggressive behavior or threatening.

The management should also provide physical security to its premise to protect workers and supervisors from any kind of assault.

2. Worksite analysis. To know what kind of physical security is needed, employers should identify the risk factors such as high crime area, dealing with money, working alone or in small number, etc. Worksite analysis also includes reviewing past incidents and improving or changing physical security to protect employees.

3. Hazard prevention and control. By installing lights, physical barriers, and video surveillance, violence and crimes may be avoided.

4. Training. Employers should provide all workers and supervisors training and awareness in violence and other abuses. The program should include potential security hazards, ways to protect oneself from violent acts, and tell-tale signs of a violent employee such as:

* Stalking a worker from his or her work

* Sending letters or phoning a worker

* Loner and not a team player

* Drug and/or alcohol abuse

* Extremely confrontational and argumentative

* Threatening other workers

* Quick to blame others

* Displaying anger

* Having a history of violent behavior

5. Evaluation. All preventive measures, training and program, and physical security must be evaluated to ensure its effectiveness. Also, review past violent incidents, police reports, and safety agencies' recommendation about aggression and assault.

While these guidelines are helpful in preventing violence, some experts suggest that OSHA should set a specific safety standard for workplaces, especially those with high risk factors. By doing so, employers will not only establish a safer place to employees but will also allow them to know if what they are doing are within the legal boundaries.

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