Reducing Workplace Violence Through Training
In my first supervisory role many years ago, I was delighted to learn that generally my subordinates were anxious to do the right thing and only needed clear communication of my expectations to diligently go in the direction of the organization’s vision. I’ve now seen that behavior repeatedly throughout my career. People generally want to do the right thing. So I ask you, on the issue of workplace violence, have you clearly communicated your expectations that employees report threatening behavior? Have you clearly communicated what behaviors are possible pre-incident indicators? Have you clearly communicated the resources available to employees to anonymously report issues involving others or to seek help for themselves? If you have answered in the affirmative, congratulations, job well done, but I would ask when did you do it last? How often do you convey that information and is it reasonable to expect that employees given information one time never need to hear it again?
Under Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970, employers are required to provide their employees with a place of employment that “is free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.” The courts have interpreted OSHA’s general duty clause to mean that an employer has a legal obligation to provide a workplace free of conditions or activities that either the employer or industry recognizes as hazardous and that cause, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to employees when there is a feasible method to abate the hazard. Workplace violence can fall under the general duty clause if a pattern of threatening or aggressive behavior goes unreported by supervisors and unaddressed by management and the aggressive behavior escalates to physical violence.
Regular ongoing training is effective in reducing incidents of WPV
If you are not regularly teaching your employees what constitutes threatening behavior and a course of action to follow in the event of such behavior and you are not teaching your supervisory staff of the procedure to follow when in receipt of a report of threatening behavior, you could be creating risk for your company. A program of regular ongoing training will increase early reporting of incidents and provide an opportunity for effective early intervention and violence avoidance. Workplace violence awareness training is effective in reducing incidents of violence in the workplace.
Components of an effective workplace violence awareness training program:
- Define workplace violence in clear terms
- Communicate your company’s policy on workplace violence
- Define behaviors that are possible pre-incident indicators
- Lay out the required course of action when pre-incident indicators are present
- Communicate resources available to report incidents and seek assistance
If you clearly communicate to your employees your company’s expectations on the issue of workplace violence through regular and effective awareness training, your employees will do the right thing. Reporting of hostile incidents and threatening behavior will increase and through your early intervention, you will have dramatically enhanced the safe working environment of your company.
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