Course Book : #107 - Workplace Violence

Course # 107

2 Contact Hours

Author: Monica Oram, RN, BSN

 

This course is intended for the reader to be able to achieve the following objectives:

  1. Define workplace violence

  2. Understand workplace violence

  3. Know the warning signs of workplace violence

  4. Understand different types of workplace violence

  5. How to report workplace violence

  6. Why it is important to report workplace violence

 

Workplace Violence

 

On any given day, newspapers are full of stories of disgruntled employees taking out their frustrations and anger at work….sometimes with deadly results.

 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, homicide is the number two cause of death in the workplace. Recent studies have stated that one in four employees was attacked, threatened or harassed at work in the past year.

 

Examples that have made the papers include:

  • Husband stabs wife in workplace parking lot

  • A postal worker in Dearborn, Michigan upset over loosing a promotion shoots and kills a supervisor, the person who got the promotion, and himself

  • An unemployed teacher kills a superintendent of schools in Florida

  • And the list goes on and on……………..

 

Workplace violence includes actual physical acts of violence, but also includes vandalism and arson.

Internal violence comes from within the workplace and is perpetrated by current employees or former employees.

External violence is perpetrated by robbers or customers and is more common among retail establishments such as convenient stores, grocery stores, or gas stations.

These are many conditions that fuel workplace violence:

  • Unstable economy

  • Widespread job layoffs

  • Authoritarian type management

  • Insensitive terminations

  • Mental health instability

  • Lack of individual responsibility

Customer Violence can be fueled from lack of patience, waiting in lines,

Dissatisfied with a product or service, discourteous service, mistakes, and promises that are not kept.

 

Reporting

It is crucial that workplace violence be reported because if the offender carries out a threat or act of violence, it could be devastating.

  • Personal guilt if someone is killed or hurt

  • Disciplinary action for failure to report

  • Loss of life ( your own or a co-workers)

 

If you follow your policy and procedures, you will only be doing your job to report violence or a potential threat to you or someone else.

 

The workplace is any location, permanent or temporary, where an employee performs work or work-related activities. Workplace facilities include lunch rooms, restrooms, break rooms, vehicles used for work, and parking lots and/or garages.

 

According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) workplace violence is defined as any physical assault, including unwanted touching or any other offensive physical contact; threatening behavior; or verbal abuse.

It includes, but is not limited to:

  • Harassment of any nature, such as being followed, sworn at, or shouted at

  • Psychological trauma, such as threats, obscene phone calls, bomb threats, or an intimidating presence.

  • Physical violence, such as hitting, grabbing, beating, or stabbing .

  • Attempted rape or suicide

  • Actual rape or suicide

  • Shootings

Why You Should Care

 

Violence in the workplace affects everyone. A United States Department of Justice National Crime Victimization Survey reports approximately 2 million assaults and threats of violence occur every year in the workplace.

Workplace violence contributes to employee injuries, stress, increased sick days, reduced morale, lost wages, and higher health care costs.

 

Preventing violence in the workplace involves teamwork. By recognizing the potential warning signals and knowing your organization’s policies and procedures for addressing workplace violence, you can reduce your risk of workplace violence.

 

Some Contributing Factors Of Workplace Violence

 

Some factors that can increase a persons risk for on the job violence can include any of the following ( but not limited to just these ideas)

 

  1. Working with the public

  2. A job that requires handling money

  3. A job in which you work alone, or in a small group

  4. A mobile workplace, such as a delivery truck or taxicab

  5. Working with people who exhibit anger or hostility

  6. Working at night or early in the morning

  7. Working in a high crime area

  8. Workplace has had a problem with violence in the past

  9. A job that requires guarding property or possessions

  10. A worker being unfamiliar of how to call for security

  11. A worker who does not know security measures or policies

 

 

Categories of Workplace Violence

 

There are different types of workplace violence, depending on the relationship between the employee and the person committing the violence.

 

With an employer, you may have months or years of experience to observe his or her actions. With a customer, stranger, or someone else’s partner, you may have only a few seconds to decide if there is a potential problem.

The most frequent type of workplace violence is stranger on employee violence. Even though our focus is on employee and workplace violence, keep in mind that customers and visitors may experience or commit workplace violence.

 

Stranger on Employee

 

Violence is committed by a stranger. There is no known relationship to the worker or workplace. The stranger enters the workplace to commit robbery or engage in a violent act. Workers may also become victims of a stranger outside the “traditional” workplace but while acting within the course and scope of their job, such as making a delivery or a bank deposit.

 

Customer on Employee

 

Violence is committed by someone who receives a service, such as a current or former customer, client, patient, or passenger. The violence can be committed in the workplace or, as with service providers, outside the “traditional” workplace but while the worker is performing a job related function.

 

Partner on Employee

 

Violence is committed by someone who has a personal relationship with the worker, such as a current or former spouse or partner, a relative, or a friend. Included in this category is the attacker who has a personal dispute with a worker and enters the workplace to harass, threaten, injure or kill.

 

 

 

Employee on Employee

 

Violence is committed by a current or former employee, a prospective employee, or a current or former supervisor or manager. Co-worker violence that occurs outside the workplace but results from an employment relationship is included in this category.

 

 

 

Recognizing The Warning Signs

 

Warning signs might alert you to any person who could become violent. Many of these signals occur with a fellow employee, but you may also observe these signals in strangers, customers, or partners. Keep in mind that what is considered acceptable or inappropriate behavior varies from person to person.

 

No single warning sign is isolated. None are a single indicator or predictability of violence if in isolation. Notice changes in an employee’s behavior and attitude or warning signals that begin to pile up over time.

For example, increased absenteeism could be the result of a happy occasion, such as the birth of a new baby. But increased absenteeism combined with other factors, such as major changes in attitude and unexplained preoccupation with weapons, could be a warning signal. If you notice a combination of these over time, it should be reported to a supervisor or a human resources representative. Some of the following signals may be a result of personal problems.

Warning signs include:

  1. Increased absenteeism

  2. Major changes in attitude

  3. Major changes in personal appearance and behavior

  4. Change in personal relationships, such as separation or divorce

  5. Reduction in job efficiency or productivity

  6. History of violent, reckless behavior

  7. Becoming anti-social when was once out-going

  8. Unusual interest in, or preoccupation with guns or other weapons

  9. Bringing weapons to work

  10. Serious stress in life (finances, personal, health)

  11. Substance abuse

  12. Unexplained signals of physical injury ( bruises, injuries, ect.)

  13. Loitering around jobsite

  14. Agitation

  15. Inability to make eye contact

  16. Unexplained interest in what other do in their jobs ( work schedules, procedure for handling money, security policies, ect)

 

 

 

Escalating Levels Of Violence

 

Usually a person does not abruptly become violent. Typically, a person’s violent behavior gradually escalates over time. You may notice a progression in violent behavior long before a violent event occurs. Regardless of the level of violence, the most important action you can take is always ensure your own safety and the safety of others. Treat all acts of violence seriously, even if no one is hurt.

 

Levels of violence can be classified as three levels.

  • Level one

  • Level two

  • Level three

 

Level One violence

 

  • Refuses to cooperate with immediate supervisors or with subordinates

  • Spreads negative rumors and gossip to harm others and creates a hostile work environment

  • Is aggressive and argumentative

  • Swears excessively at others

  • Makes an unwanted sexual comment or makes advances

  • Makes you feel uncomfortable or intimidated

  • Tends to harass others

 

Level Two Violence

 

  • Argues frequently with co- workers, supervisors, managers, and/or customers

  • Resists supervision and refuses to follow organizational policies and procedures

  • Makes threatening statements, verbally or in writing to kill or do harm to others or self

  • Complains about poor supervision, inappropriate management, or feeling the organization is out to get him or her

  • Is overly interested in discussing violent crime

  • Collects newspaper clippings and articles of acts of violence

  • Is overly interested in weapons

 

Level three

  • Is frequently angry and engages in physical altercations with others

  • Engages in physically destructive acts

  • Engages in criminal activity

 

What To Do When Violence Occurs

 

If you are confronted in the workplace:

  • Stay calm

  • Listen attentively

  • Ask the person to sit down

  • Ask the person questions relevant to his complaint, such as “ what can I do to help you?”

  • Maintain eye contact

  • Keep in control, and never raise your voice

  • Speak slowly, calmly, and clearly

  • Never speak defensively

  • Identify violent behavior before it escalates

  • Set ground rules, such as “ when you shout at me, I can’t understand what you are saying”

  • Signal a co-worker to be present

  • If it is necessary to call police, do not make the call yourself in the presence of an angry or violent person. Have someone else summon help or police.

  • Talk to your supervisor

  • If dealing with a real potential threat or danger, get yourself and others away from the potentially violent person, if possible

  • Follow your workplace emergency action plan

  • Get out or hide, if able

How To Be A Good Witness

 

If an attack occurs without jeopardizing safety, try to observe the attacker and remember details such as approximate age, race, facial hair, hair style, build, height, weight, clothes, tattoos or any other distinguishing marks.

 

If a car is involved, note the color, make and model. Get the plate number if possible and direction of travel.

 

Call police and give information immediately.

After a Violent Event

 

 

  • Immediately report a violent even to your supervisor or human resources representative.

  • Document any factual events and details as soon as possible, including the inappropriate behaviors you have observed.

  • Talk to your supervisor about organizational policies and workplace violence

  • Share your grief with other co-workers and share information on how to make your work place safer, if safety is a concern or problem where you work

  • Employees should be encourages to support one another and take care of each other

 

Employee Assistance Programs

 

Many organizations have an Employee Assistance Program in place, (EAP) or other mental health service available. EAP’s are confidential intervention programs for employees in the workplace. These programs address work -related and personal issues that affect work and productivity. They have the means to offer counseling and assistance to employees and families with problems and issues that impact job performance. EAP programs are able to offer referrals to community resources. An employee who is under undue stress or emotional problems can share information in private and be assured confidentiality in speaking to an EAP counselor.

 

Information For Supervisors and Managers

 

Take all threats serious! Employees may not step forward with their concerns if they think that management is “out to get them” or is unwilling to listen.

 

If the potentially violent person is an employee:

  • Allow the employee to express his or her feelings and to relax, if possible.

  • Conduct a formal performance review of the employee in question. Set definite performance measures for acceptable and inappropriate behavior

  • Document employees actions and conversations

  • Develop a plan of action with frequent opportunities to re-evaluate the situation

  • Assist in finding solutions by using programs, such as EAP, for work related and personal problems

  • Look for continued changes in attitude, behavior, and appearance

  • Support victims and other affected workers after an incident

 

If the potentially violent person is a stranger, customer, or partner:

  • Work with human resources or security personnel to determine the appropriate response if you are not sure how to handle a situation like this, as per your companies policy and procedures

  • Restrict or deny access to the building

  • Have a third party present, if possible, and document all conversations and events

  • Respond proactively to an attacker’s concerns and assist in finding solutions

  • Create a predetermined code word or signal so that someone in an adjoining office or location can be notified of an emergency, or to call police.

 

Minimizing The Risks

 

Some methods recommended by OSHA to help control workplace violence include:

  • Physical barriers, such as bullet resistant enclosures, pass through windows, or deep service counters. ( like in service stations, or banks)

  • Bright and effective lighting

  • Adequate staffing

  • Arrangement of furniture to prevent entrapment

  • Cash handling controls and use of drop safes

  • Establishing of a liaison with local police

  • Training in identifying hazardous situations and appropriate responses in emergencies.

 

Workplace Safety Tips

 

By taking a few basic precautions, you can reduce your chances of becoming a victim of workplace violence.

 

Workplace Security

 

  • Know when and how to reach your organization’s security officials through a workplace emergency number.

  • Be aware of escape routes and emergency exits in your facility

  • Call 911 if you feel the situation is potentially serious and might turn violent

  • If your workplace requires you to use a security card to gain entry, make sure there is no one entering behind you. Don’t hold the door open for them if you do not know who they are.

  • If you are in an elevator, stand near the control panel. If you are attacked, press the alarm button and any unlit buttons to give you a chance to escape or yell for help.

  • Do not wear your workplace name badge in public, even during lunch. When you take off your name tag, a potential attacker cannot learn your name or place of employment, possibly preventing stalking or harassment, or other acts of violence.

 

Travel Safety

 

  • When traveling on business, stay in a hotel room above the first floor and close to the lobby, if possible.

  • Ask for an employee to escort you to your room

  • Always lock your door to your hotel

  • Ask for identification from unexpected hotel employees or visitors knocking on your door.

 

Parking Area Safety

 

  • Park only in well lit, busy areas close to your destination

  • If you are leaving the office or your work late at night, walk with a co-worker to your car or ask security to escort you to your car.

  • Use extra caution in a parking garage. There are many blind spots for people to hide in and they are not always well lit.

  • Be sure to write down information about parking level, row, or lot to find your car quickly. (especially if at an airport)

  • Avoid walking close to parked cars

 

 

Personal Safety

 

  • Do not wear flashy jewelry, like flashy watches or necklaces in public places.

  • Keep your handbag and other valuables out of site and under lock and key at work.

  • Do not leave your purse on the seat of your car, or valuables in plain view in your vehicle.

  • Consider taking a self defense course

  • Carry a cell phone with you

  • Develop a personal safety plan, such as calling home as you leave work, to let someone know when you expect to arrive.

  • Invest in personal protection such as self defense pepper spray, and have it in your hand as you are walking alone or in a dark area.

 

Vehicle Safety

 

  • Be sure to lock your car as soon as you enter or exit your vehicle

  • Have the car keys ready and in your hand before you approach your vehicle

  • Always check under your car and the back seat for anything unusual as you approach your car, and as you are unlocking the vehicle.

  • Do not pull directly beside another vehicle when you are stopping at a red light, if you can avoid it.

  • Allow yourself the best view and opportunity to flee or change direction if necessary

  • When driving, pay attention to cars behind you and beside you.

  • Mark down a license plate number if you notice anything suspicious

  • Consider changing your direction, or destination if you think it seems unsafe.

 

SUMMARY

 

Although workplace violence is increasing, you can decrease your odds of becoming a victim. Keep in mind that verbal threats are as much a form of violence as physical attacks. Don’t ignore angry outbursts. Know that workplace conflicts and stress can cause a violent incident. Protect yourself from external, or outside violence by following the tips provided.

 

Most importantly, report any violence that occurs in your workplace. Don’t worry about being a “tattle-tale”. By informing others and your supervisor of potentially dangerous situations, you can save a life- maybe even your own.

 

References:

 

American Red Cross, Workplace Violence, 2000

 

National Association of Safety Professionals

www.naspweb.com

 

Occupational Safety Health Administration

www.osha-safety.net

 

1-800-321-osha

 

www.osha.gov

 

www.worksafe.com

Course # 107

2 Contact Hours

Author: Monica Oram, RN, BSN

 

This course is intended for the reader to be able to achieve the following objectives:

  1. Define workplace violence

  2. Understand workplace violence

  3. Know the warning signs of workplace violence

  4. Understand different types of workplace violence

  5. How to report workplace violence

  6. Why it is important to report workplace violence

 

Workplace Violence

 

On any given day, newspapers are full of stories of disgruntled employees taking out their frustrations and anger at work….sometimes with deadly results.

 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, homicide is the number two cause of death in the workplace. Recent studies have stated that one in four employees was attacked, threatened or harassed at work in the past year.

 

Examples that have made the papers include:

  • Husband stabs wife in workplace parking lot

  • A postal worker in Dearborn, Michigan upset over loosing a promotion shoots and kills a supervisor, the person who got the promotion, and himself

  • An unemployed teacher kills a superintendent of schools in Florida

  • And the list goes on and on……………..

 

Workplace violence includes actual physical acts of violence, but also includes vandalism and arson.

Internal violence comes from within the workplace and is perpetrated by current employees or former employees.

External violence is perpetrated by robbers or customers and is more common among retail establishments such as convenient stores, grocery stores, or gas stations.

These are many conditions that fuel workplace violence:

  • Unstable economy

  • Widespread job layoffs

  • Authoritarian type management

  • Insensitive terminations

  • Mental health instability

  • Lack of individual responsibility

Customer Violence can be fueled from lack of patience, waiting in lines,

Dissatisfied with a product or service, discourteous service, mistakes, and promises that are not kept.

 

Reporting

It is crucial that workplace violence be reported because if the offender carries out a threat or act of violence, it could be devastating.

  • Personal guilt if someone is killed or hurt

  • Disciplinary action for failure to report

  • Loss of life ( your own or a co-workers)

 

If you follow your policy and procedures, you will only be doing your job to report violence or a potential threat to you or someone else.

 

The workplace is any location, permanent or temporary, where an employee performs work or work-related activities. Workplace facilities include lunch rooms, restrooms, break rooms, vehicles used for work, and parking lots and/or garages.

 

According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) workplace violence is defined as any physical assault, including unwanted touching or any other offensive physical contact; threatening behavior; or verbal abuse.

It includes, but is not limited to:

  • Harassment of any nature, such as being followed, sworn at, or shouted at

  • Psychological trauma, such as threats, obscene phone calls, bomb threats, or an intimidating presence.

  • Physical violence, such as hitting, grabbing, beating, or stabbing .

  • Attempted rape or suicide

  • Actual rape or suicide

  • Shootings

Why You Should Care

 

Violence in the workplace affects everyone. A United States Department of Justice National Crime Victimization Survey reports approximately 2 million assaults and threats of violence occur every year in the workplace.

Workplace violence contributes to employee injuries, stress, increased sick days, reduced morale, lost wages, and higher health care costs.

 

Preventing violence in the workplace involves teamwork. By recognizing the potential warning signals and knowing your organization’s policies and procedures for addressing workplace violence, you can reduce your risk of workplace violence.

 

Some Contributing Factors Of Workplace Violence

 

Some factors that can increase a persons risk for on the job violence can include any of the following ( but not limited to just these ideas)

 

  1. Working with the public

  2. A job that requires handling money

  3. A job in which you work alone, or in a small group

  4. A mobile workplace, such as a delivery truck or taxicab

  5. Working with people who exhibit anger or hostility

  6. Working at night or early in the morning

  7. Working in a high crime area

  8. Workplace has had a problem with violence in the past

  9. A job that requires guarding property or possessions

  10. A worker being unfamiliar of how to call for security

  11. A worker who does not know security measures or policies

 

 

Categories of Workplace Violence

 

There are different types of workplace violence, depending on the relationship between the employee and the person committing the violence.

 

With an employer, you may have months or years of experience to observe his or her actions. With a customer, stranger, or someone else’s partner, you may have only a few seconds to decide if there is a potential problem.

The most frequent type of workplace violence is stranger on employee violence. Even though our focus is on employee and workplace violence, keep in mind that customers and visitors may experience or commit workplace violence.

 

Stranger on Employee

 

Violence is committed by a stranger. There is no known relationship to the worker or workplace. The stranger enters the workplace to commit robbery or engage in a violent act. Workers may also become victims of a stranger outside the “traditional” workplace but while acting within the course and scope of their job, such as making a delivery or a bank deposit.

 

Customer on Employee

 

Violence is committed by someone who receives a service, such as a current or former customer, client, patient, or passenger. The violence can be committed in the workplace or, as with service providers, outside the “traditional” workplace but while the worker is performing a job related function.

 

Partner on Employee

 

Violence is committed by someone who has a personal relationship with the worker, such as a current or former spouse or partner, a relative, or a friend. Included in this category is the attacker who has a personal dispute with a worker and enters the workplace to harass, threaten, injure or kill.

 

 

 

Employee on Employee

 

Violence is committed by a current or former employee, a prospective employee, or a current or former supervisor or manager. Co-worker violence that occurs outside the workplace but results from an employment relationship is included in this category.

 

 

 

Recognizing The Warning Signs

 

Warning signs might alert you to any person who could become violent. Many of these signals occur with a fellow employee, but you may also observe these signals in strangers, customers, or partners. Keep in mind that what is considered acceptable or inappropriate behavior varies from person to person.

 

No single warning sign is isolated. None are a single indicator or predictability of violence if in isolation. Notice changes in an employee’s behavior and attitude or warning signals that begin to pile up over time.

For example, increased absenteeism could be the result of a happy occasion, such as the birth of a new baby. But increased absenteeism combined with other factors, such as major changes in attitude and unexplained preoccupation with weapons, could be a warning signal. If you notice a combination of these over time, it should be reported to a supervisor or a human resources representative. Some of the following signals may be a result of personal problems.

Warning signs include:

  1. Increased absenteeism

  2. Major changes in attitude

  3. Major changes in personal appearance and behavior

  4. Change in personal relationships, such as separation or divorce

  5. Reduction in job efficiency or productivity

  6. History of violent, reckless behavior

  7. Becoming anti-social when was once out-going

  8. Unusual interest in, or preoccupation with guns or other weapons

  9. Bringing weapons to work

  10. Serious stress in life (finances, personal, health)

  11. Substance abuse

  12. Unexplained signals of physical injury ( bruises, injuries, ect.)

  13. Loitering around jobsite

  14. Agitation

  15. Inability to make eye contact

  16. Unexplained interest in what other do in their jobs ( work schedules, procedure for handling money, security policies, ect)

 

 

 

Escalating Levels Of Violence

 

Usually a person does not abruptly become violent. Typically, a person’s violent behavior gradually escalates over time. You may notice a progression in violent behavior long before a violent event occurs. Regardless of the level of violence, the most important action you can take is always ensure your own safety and the safety of others. Treat all acts of violence seriously, even if no one is hurt.

 

Levels of violence can be classified as three levels.

  • Level one

  • Level two

  • Level three

 

Level One violence

 

  • Refuses to cooperate with immediate supervisors or with subordinates

  • Spreads negative rumors and gossip to harm others and creates a hostile work environment

  • Is aggressive and argumentative

  • Swears excessively at others

  • Makes an unwanted sexual comment or makes advances

  • Makes you feel uncomfortable or intimidated

  • Tends to harass others

 

Level Two Violence

 

  • Argues frequently with co- workers, supervisors, managers, and/or customers

  • Resists supervision and refuses to follow organizational policies and procedures

  • Makes threatening statements, verbally or in writing to kill or do harm to others or self

  • Complains about poor supervision, inappropriate management, or feeling the organization is out to get him or her

  • Is overly interested in discussing violent crime

  • Collects newspaper clippings and articles of acts of violence

  • Is overly interested in weapons

 

Level three

  • Is frequently angry and engages in physical altercations with others

  • Engages in physically destructive acts

  • Engages in criminal activity

 

What To Do When Violence Occurs

 

If you are confronted in the workplace:

  • Stay calm

  • Listen attentively

  • Ask the person to sit down

  • Ask the person questions relevant to his complaint, such as “ what can I do to help you?”

  • Maintain eye contact

  • Keep in control, and never raise your voice

  • Speak slowly, calmly, and clearly

  • Never speak defensively

  • Identify violent behavior before it escalates

  • Set ground rules, such as “ when you shout at me, I can’t understand what you are saying”

  • Signal a co-worker to be present

  • If it is necessary to call police, do not make the call yourself in the presence of an angry or violent person. Have someone else summon help or police.

  • Talk to your supervisor

  • If dealing with a real potential threat or danger, get yourself and others away from the potentially violent person, if possible

  • Follow your workplace emergency action plan

  • Get out or hide, if able

How To Be A Good Witness

 

If an attack occurs without jeopardizing safety, try to observe the attacker and remember details such as approximate age, race, facial hair, hair style, build, height, weight, clothes, tattoos or any other distinguishing marks.

 

If a car is involved, note the color, make and model. Get the plate number if possible and direction of travel.

 

Call police and give information immediately.

After a Violent Event

 

 

  • Immediately report a violent even to your supervisor or human resources representative.

  • Document any factual events and details as soon as possible, including the inappropriate behaviors you have observed.

  • Talk to your supervisor about organizational policies and workplace violence

  • Share your grief with other co-workers and share information on how to make your work place safer, if safety is a concern or problem where you work

  • Employees should be encourages to support one another and take care of each other

 

Employee Assistance Programs

 

Many organizations have an Employee Assistance Program in place, (EAP) or other mental health service available. EAP’s are confidential intervention programs for employees in the workplace. These programs address work -related and personal issues that affect work and productivity. They have the means to offer counseling and assistance to employees and families with problems and issues that impact job performance. EAP programs are able to offer referrals to community resources. An employee who is under undue stress or emotional problems can share information in private and be assured confidentiality in speaking to an EAP counselor.

 

Information For Supervisors and Managers

 

Take all threats serious! Employees may not step forward with their concerns if they think that management is “out to get them” or is unwilling to listen.

 

If the potentially violent person is an employee:

  • Allow the employee to express his or her feelings and to relax, if possible.

  • Conduct a formal performance review of the employee in question. Set definite performance measures for acceptable and inappropriate behavior

  • Document employees actions and conversations

  • Develop a plan of action with frequent opportunities to re-evaluate the situation

  • Assist in finding solutions by using programs, such as EAP, for work related and personal problems

  • Look for continued changes in attitude, behavior, and appearance

  • Support victims and other affected workers after an incident

 

If the potentially violent person is a stranger, customer, or partner:

  • Work with human resources or security personnel to determine the appropriate response if you are not sure how to handle a situation like this, as per your companies policy and procedures

  • Restrict or deny access to the building

  • Have a third party present, if possible, and document all conversations and events

  • Respond proactively to an attacker’s concerns and assist in finding solutions

  • Create a predetermined code word or signal so that someone in an adjoining office or location can be notified of an emergency, or to call police.

 

Minimizing The Risks

 

Some methods recommended by OSHA to help control workplace violence include:

  • Physical barriers, such as bullet resistant enclosures, pass through windows, or deep service counters. ( like in service stations, or banks)

  • Bright and effective lighting

  • Adequate staffing

  • Arrangement of furniture to prevent entrapment

  • Cash handling controls and use of drop safes

  • Establishing of a liaison with local police

  • Training in identifying hazardous situations and appropriate responses in emergencies.

 

Workplace Safety Tips

 

By taking a few basic precautions, you can reduce your chances of becoming a victim of workplace violence.

 

Workplace Security

 

  • Know when and how to reach your organization’s security officials through a workplace emergency number.

  • Be aware of escape routes and emergency exits in your facility

  • Call 911 if you feel the situation is potentially serious and might turn violent

  • If your workplace requires you to use a security card to gain entry, make sure there is no one entering behind you. Don’t hold the door open for them if you do not know who they are.

  • If you are in an elevator, stand near the control panel. If you are attacked, press the alarm button and any unlit buttons to give you a chance to escape or yell for help.

  • Do not wear your workplace name badge in public, even during lunch. When you take off your name tag, a potential attacker cannot learn your name or place of employment, possibly preventing stalking or harassment, or other acts of violence.

 

Travel Safety

 

  • When traveling on business, stay in a hotel room above the first floor and close to the lobby, if possible.

  • Ask for an employee to escort you to your room

  • Always lock your door to your hotel

  • Ask for identification from unexpected hotel employees or visitors knocking on your door.

 

Parking Area Safety

 

  • Park only in well lit, busy areas close to your destination

  • If you are leaving the office or your work late at night, walk with a co-worker to your car or ask security to escort you to your car.

  • Use extra caution in a parking garage. There are many blind spots for people to hide in and they are not always well lit.

  • Be sure to write down information about parking level, row, or lot to find your car quickly. (especially if at an airport)

  • Avoid walking close to parked cars

 

 

Personal Safety

 

  • Do not wear flashy jewelry, like flashy watches or necklaces in public places.

  • Keep your handbag and other valuables out of site and under lock and key at work.

  • Do not leave your purse on the seat of your car, or valuables in plain view in your vehicle.

  • Consider taking a self defense course

  • Carry a cell phone with you

  • Develop a personal safety plan, such as calling home as you leave work, to let someone know when you expect to arrive.

  • Invest in personal protection such as self defense pepper spray, and have it in your hand as you are walking alone or in a dark area.

 

Vehicle Safety

 

  • Be sure to lock your car as soon as you enter or exit your vehicle

  • Have the car keys ready and in your hand before you approach your vehicle

  • Always check under your car and the back seat for anything unusual as you approach your car, and as you are unlocking the vehicle.

  • Do not pull directly beside another vehicle when you are stopping at a red light, if you can avoid it.

  • Allow yourself the best view and opportunity to flee or change direction if necessary

  • When driving, pay attention to cars behind you and beside you.

  • Mark down a license plate number if you notice anything suspicious

  • Consider changing your direction, or destination if you think it seems unsafe.

 

SUMMARY

 

Although workplace violence is increasing, you can decrease your odds of becoming a victim. Keep in mind that verbal threats are as much a form of violence as physical attacks. Don’t ignore angry outbursts. Know that workplace conflicts and stress can cause a violent incident. Protect yourself from external, or outside violence by following the tips provided.

 

Most importantly, report any violence that occurs in your workplace. Don’t worry about being a “tattle-tale”. By informing others and your supervisor of potentially dangerous situations, you can save a life- maybe even your own.

 

References:

 

American Red Cross, Workplace Violence, 2000

 

National Association of Safety Professionals

www.naspweb.com

 

Occupational Safety Health Administration

www.osha-safety.net

 

1-800-321-osha

 

www.osha.gov

 

www.worksafe.com

Course # 107

2 Contact Hours

Author: Monica Oram, RN, BSN

 

This course is intended for the reader to be able to achieve the following objectives:

  1. Define workplace violence

  2. Understand workplace violence

  3. Know the warning signs of workplace violence

  4. Understand different types of workplace violence

  5. How to report workplace violence

  6. Why it is important to report workplace violence

 

Workplace Violence

 

On any given day, newspapers are full of stories of disgruntled employees taking out their frustrations and anger at work….sometimes with deadly results.

 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, homicide is the number two cause of death in the workplace. Recent studies have stated that one in four employees was attacked, threatened or harassed at work in the past year.

 

Examples that have made the papers include:

  • Husband stabs wife in workplace parking lot

  • A postal worker in Dearborn, Michigan upset over loosing a promotion shoots and kills a supervisor, the person who got the promotion, and himself

  • An unemployed teacher kills a superintendent of schools in Florida

  • And the list goes on and on……………..

 

Workplace violence includes actual physical acts of violence, but also includes vandalism and arson.

Internal violence comes from within the workplace and is perpetrated by current employees or former employees.

External violence is perpetrated by robbers or customers and is more common among retail establishments such as convenient stores, grocery stores, or gas stations.

These are many conditions that fuel workplace violence:

  • Unstable economy

  • Widespread job layoffs

  • Authoritarian type management

  • Insensitive terminations

  • Mental health instability

  • Lack of individual responsibility

Customer Violence can be fueled from lack of patience, waiting in lines,

Dissatisfied with a product or service, discourteous service, mistakes, and promises that are not kept.

 

Reporting

It is crucial that workplace violence be reported because if the offender carries out a threat or act of violence, it could be devastating.

  • Personal guilt if someone is killed or hurt

  • Disciplinary action for failure to report

  • Loss of life ( your own or a co-workers)

 

If you follow your policy and procedures, you will only be doing your job to report violence or a potential threat to you or someone else.

 

The workplace is any location, permanent or temporary, where an employee performs work or work-related activities. Workplace facilities include lunch rooms, restrooms, break rooms, vehicles used for work, and parking lots and/or garages.

 

According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) workplace violence is defined as any physical assault, including unwanted touching or any other offensive physical contact; threatening behavior; or verbal abuse.

It includes, but is not limited to:

  • Harassment of any nature, such as being followed, sworn at, or shouted at

  • Psychological trauma, such as threats, obscene phone calls, bomb threats, or an intimidating presence.

  • Physical violence, such as hitting, grabbing, beating, or stabbing .

  • Attempted rape or suicide

  • Actual rape or suicide

  • Shootings

Why You Should Care

 

Violence in the workplace affects everyone. A United States Department of Justice National Crime Victimization Survey reports approximately 2 million assaults and threats of violence occur every year in the workplace.

Workplace violence contributes to employee injuries, stress, increased sick days, reduced morale, lost wages, and higher health care costs.

 

Preventing violence in the workplace involves teamwork. By recognizing the potential warning signals and knowing your organization’s policies and procedures for addressing workplace violence, you can reduce your risk of workplace violence.

 

Some Contributing Factors Of Workplace Violence

 

Some factors that can increase a persons risk for on the job violence can include any of the following ( but not limited to just these ideas)

 

  1. Working with the public

  2. A job that requires handling money

  3. A job in which you work alone, or in a small group

  4. A mobile workplace, such as a delivery truck or taxicab

  5. Working with people who exhibit anger or hostility

  6. Working at night or early in the morning

  7. Working in a high crime area

  8. Workplace has had a problem with violence in the past

  9. A job that requires guarding property or possessions

  10. A worker being unfamiliar of how to call for security

  11. A worker who does not know security measures or policies

 

 

Categories of Workplace Violence

 

There are different types of workplace violence, depending on the relationship between the employee and the person committing the violence.

 

With an employer, you may have months or years of experience to observe his or her actions. With a customer, stranger, or someone else’s partner, you may have only a few seconds to decide if there is a potential problem.

The most frequent type of workplace violence is stranger on employee violence. Even though our focus is on employee and workplace violence, keep in mind that customers and visitors may experience or commit workplace violence.

 

Stranger on Employee

 

Violence is committed by a stranger. There is no known relationship to the worker or workplace. The stranger enters the workplace to commit robbery or engage in a violent act. Workers may also become victims of a stranger outside the “traditional” workplace but while acting within the course and scope of their job, such as making a delivery or a bank deposit.

 

Customer on Employee

 

Violence is committed by someone who receives a service, such as a current or former customer, client, patient, or passenger. The violence can be committed in the workplace or, as with service providers, outside the “traditional” workplace but while the worker is performing a job related function.

 

Partner on Employee

 

Violence is committed by someone who has a personal relationship with the worker, such as a current or former spouse or partner, a relative, or a friend. Included in this category is the attacker who has a personal dispute with a worker and enters the workplace to harass, threaten, injure or kill.

 

 

 

Employee on Employee

 

Violence is committed by a current or former employee, a prospective employee, or a current or former supervisor or manager. Co-worker violence that occurs outside the workplace but results from an employment relationship is included in this category.

 

 

 

Recognizing The Warning Signs

 

Warning signs might alert you to any person who could become violent. Many of these signals occur with a fellow employee, but you may also observe these signals in strangers, customers, or partners. Keep in mind that what is considered acceptable or inappropriate behavior varies from person to person.

 

No single warning sign is isolated. None are a single indicator or predictability of violence if in isolation. Notice changes in an employee’s behavior and attitude or warning signals that begin to pile up over time.

For example, increased absenteeism could be the result of a happy occasion, such as the birth of a new baby. But increased absenteeism combined with other factors, such as major changes in attitude and unexplained preoccupation with weapons, could be a warning signal. If you notice a combination of these over time, it should be reported to a supervisor or a human resources representative. Some of the following signals may be a result of personal problems.

Warning signs include:

  1. Increased absenteeism

  2. Major changes in attitude

  3. Major changes in personal appearance and behavior

  4. Change in personal relationships, such as separation or divorce

  5. Reduction in job efficiency or productivity

  6. History of violent, reckless behavior

  7. Becoming anti-social when was once out-going

  8. Unusual interest in, or preoccupation with guns or other weapons

  9. Bringing weapons to work

  10. Serious stress in life (finances, personal, health)

  11. Substance abuse

  12. Unexplained signals of physical injury ( bruises, injuries, ect.)

  13. Loitering around jobsite

  14. Agitation

  15. Inability to make eye contact

  16. Unexplained interest in what other do in their jobs ( work schedules, procedure for handling money, security policies, ect)

 

 

 

Escalating Levels Of Violence

 

Usually a person does not abruptly become violent. Typically, a person’s violent behavior gradually escalates over time. You may notice a progression in violent behavior long before a violent event occurs. Regardless of the level of violence, the most important action you can take is always ensure your own safety and the safety of others. Treat all acts of violence seriously, even if no one is hurt.

 

Levels of violence can be classified as three levels.

  • Level one

  • Level two

  • Level three

 

Level One violence

 

  • Refuses to cooperate with immediate supervisors or with subordinates

  • Spreads negative rumors and gossip to harm others and creates a hostile work environment

  • Is aggressive and argumentative

  • Swears excessively at others

  • Makes an unwanted sexual comment or makes advances

  • Makes you feel uncomfortable or intimidated

  • Tends to harass others

 

Level Two Violence

 

  • Argues frequently with co- workers, supervisors, managers, and/or customers

  • Resists supervision and refuses to follow organizational policies and procedures

  • Makes threatening statements, verbally or in writing to kill or do harm to others or self

  • Complains about poor supervision, inappropriate management, or feeling the organization is out to get him or her

  • Is overly interested in discussing violent crime

  • Collects newspaper clippings and articles of acts of violence

  • Is overly interested in weapons

 

Level three

  • Is frequently angry and engages in physical altercations with others

  • Engages in physically destructive acts

  • Engages in criminal activity

 

What To Do When Violence Occurs

 

If you are confronted in the workplace:

  • Stay calm

  • Listen attentively

  • Ask the person to sit down

  • Ask the person questions relevant to his complaint, such as “ what can I do to help you?”

  • Maintain eye contact

  • Keep in control, and never raise your voice

  • Speak slowly, calmly, and clearly

  • Never speak defensively

  • Identify violent behavior before it escalates

  • Set ground rules, such as “ when you shout at me, I can’t understand what you are saying”

  • Signal a co-worker to be present

  • If it is necessary to call police, do not make the call yourself in the presence of an angry or violent person. Have someone else summon help or police.

  • Talk to your supervisor

  • If dealing with a real potential threat or danger, get yourself and others away from the potentially violent person, if possible

  • Follow your workplace emergency action plan

  • Get out or hide, if able

How To Be A Good Witness

 

If an attack occurs without jeopardizing safety, try to observe the attacker and remember details such as approximate age, race, facial hair, hair style, build, height, weight, clothes, tattoos or any other distinguishing marks.

 

If a car is involved, note the color, make and model. Get the plate number if possible and direction of travel.

 

Call police and give information immediately.

After a Violent Event

 

 

  • Immediately report a violent even to your supervisor or human resources representative.

  • Document any factual events and details as soon as possible, including the inappropriate behaviors you have observed.

  • Talk to your supervisor about organizational policies and workplace violence

  • Share your grief with other co-workers and share information on how to make your work place safer, if safety is a concern or problem where you work

  • Employees should be encourages to support one another and take care of each other

 

Employee Assistance Programs

 

Many organizations have an Employee Assistance Program in place, (EAP) or other mental health service available. EAP’s are confidential intervention programs for employees in the workplace. These programs address work -related and personal issues that affect work and productivity. They have the means to offer counseling and assistance to employees and families with problems and issues that impact job performance. EAP programs are able to offer referrals to community resources. An employee who is under undue stress or emotional problems can share information in private and be assured confidentiality in speaking to an EAP counselor.

 

Information For Supervisors and Managers

 

Take all threats serious! Employees may not step forward with their concerns if they think that management is “out to get them” or is unwilling to listen.

 

If the potentially violent person is an employee:

  • Allow the employee to express his or her feelings and to relax, if possible.

  • Conduct a formal performance review of the employee in question. Set definite performance measures for acceptable and inappropriate behavior

  • Document employees actions and conversations

  • Develop a plan of action with frequent opportunities to re-evaluate the situation

  • Assist in finding solutions by using programs, such as EAP, for work related and personal problems

  • Look for continued changes in attitude, behavior, and appearance

  • Support victims and other affected workers after an incident

 

If the potentially violent person is a stranger, customer, or partner:

  • Work with human resources or security personnel to determine the appropriate response if you are not sure how to handle a situation like this, as per your companies policy and procedures

  • Restrict or deny access to the building

  • Have a third party present, if possible, and document all conversations and events

  • Respond proactively to an attacker’s concerns and assist in finding solutions

  • Create a predetermined code word or signal so that someone in an adjoining office or location can be notified of an emergency, or to call police.

 

Minimizing The Risks

 

Some methods recommended by OSHA to help control workplace violence include:

  • Physical barriers, such as bullet resistant enclosures, pass through windows, or deep service counters. ( like in service stations, or banks)

  • Bright and effective lighting

  • Adequate staffing

  • Arrangement of furniture to prevent entrapment

  • Cash handling controls and use of drop safes

  • Establishing of a liaison with local police

  • Training in identifying hazardous situations and appropriate responses in emergencies.

 

Workplace Safety Tips

 

By taking a few basic precautions, you can reduce your chances of becoming a victim of workplace violence.

 

Workplace Security

 

  • Know when and how to reach your organization’s security officials through a workplace emergency number.

  • Be aware of escape routes and emergency exits in your facility

  • Call 911 if you feel the situation is potentially serious and might turn violent

  • If your workplace requires you to use a security card to gain entry, make sure there is no one entering behind you. Don’t hold the door open for them if you do not know who they are.

  • If you are in an elevator, stand near the control panel. If you are attacked, press the alarm button and any unlit buttons to give you a chance to escape or yell for help.

  • Do not wear your workplace name badge in public, even during lunch. When you take off your name tag, a potential attacker cannot learn your name or place of employment, possibly preventing stalking or harassment, or other acts of violence.

 

Travel Safety

 

  • When traveling on business, stay in a hotel room above the first floor and close to the lobby, if possible.

  • Ask for an employee to escort you to your room

  • Always lock your door to your hotel

  • Ask for identification from unexpected hotel employees or visitors knocking on your door.

 

Parking Area Safety

 

  • Park only in well lit, busy areas close to your destination

  • If you are leaving the office or your work late at night, walk with a co-worker to your car or ask security to escort you to your car.

  • Use extra caution in a parking garage. There are many blind spots for people to hide in and they are not always well lit.

  • Be sure to write down information about parking level, row, or lot to find your car quickly. (especially if at an airport)

  • Avoid walking close to parked cars

 

 

Personal Safety

 

  • Do not wear flashy jewelry, like flashy watches or necklaces in public places.

  • Keep your handbag and other valuables out of site and under lock and key at work.

  • Do not leave your purse on the seat of your car, or valuables in plain view in your vehicle.

  • Consider taking a self defense course

  • Carry a cell phone with you

  • Develop a personal safety plan, such as calling home as you leave work, to let someone know when you expect to arrive.

  • Invest in personal protection such as self defense pepper spray, and have it in your hand as you are walking alone or in a dark area.

 

Vehicle Safety

 

  • Be sure to lock your car as soon as you enter or exit your vehicle

  • Have the car keys ready and in your hand before you approach your vehicle

  • Always check under your car and the back seat for anything unusual as you approach your car, and as you are unlocking the vehicle.

  • Do not pull directly beside another vehicle when you are stopping at a red light, if you can avoid it.

  • Allow yourself the best view and opportunity to flee or change direction if necessary

  • When driving, pay attention to cars behind you and beside you.

  • Mark down a license plate number if you notice anything suspicious

  • Consider changing your direction, or destination if you think it seems unsafe.

 

SUMMARY

 

Although workplace violence is increasing, you can decrease your odds of becoming a victim. Keep in mind that verbal threats are as much a form of violence as physical attacks. Don’t ignore angry outbursts. Know that workplace conflicts and stress can cause a violent incident. Protect yourself from external, or outside violence by following the tips provided.

 

Most importantly, report any violence that occurs in your workplace. Don’t worry about being a “tattle-tale”. By informing others and your supervisor of potentially dangerous situations, you can save a life- maybe even your own.

 

References:

 

American Red Cross, Workplace Violence, 2000

 

National Association of Safety Professionals

www.naspweb.com

 

Occupational Safety Health Administration

www.osha-safety.net

 

1-800-321-osha

 

www.osha.gov

 

www.worksafe.com