I just read an excellent article from the The Houston Chronicle entitled “Employers can minimize risk of workplace violence.”
The author stresses these important points:
“While violence cannot always be anticipated, this does not relieve employers of their obligation to provide a safe workplace. First, federal law requires it. With the Department of Labor adding investigators and stepping up workplace safety enforcement, compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations should be a management priority. Second, workers compensation insurance provides Texas employers only limited protection against liability from the inevitable lawsuits following a workplace tragedy.”
Here are the the 8 Tips On How Employers Can Minimize Risk Of Workplace Violence from the article:
- Accept reality: The recent shootings reinforce the fact that the risk of workplace violence is omnipresent. Employers must be proactive to prevent or minimize exposure to such incidents.
- Use effective pre-employment documents and conduct background checks: An effective application coupled with valid legal releases and disclaimers provide key information on the applicant. Employers should conduct background investigations to discover prior convictions, litigation history, motor vehicle records, employment references, credit history, education records and other relevant background information concerning the applicant.
- Establish policies on workplace violence: Employers should establish a written zero-tolerance position on violence, threats or abusive language and make clear that any violation of these rules can be grounds for termination. A workplace violence policy should also include a procedure to confidentially report threats.
- Conduct substance-abuse testing: Private employers should test all applicants and employees for substance abuse to the extent allowed by law. Negative test results should be a condition of employment.
- Develop procedures for investigating threats: These procedures should include specific guidelines for conducting an investigation and interviewing witnesses and the individual who allegedly made the threat. To the extent necessary, employers should retain security consultants, psychologists, attorneys or other professionals for advice on how to handle threats quickly, effectively and legally.
- Train supervisors and employees: Supervisors should be instructed to identify violence risks and report all threats to management immediately. Supervisors should be trained in conflict resolution, stress management, managing change in the workplace and recognizing the early warning signs of violent employees. They should also be trained to be sensitive to the fact that seemingly small issues can suddenly escalate into workplace problems. Employees should be trained regarding their responsibility to report threats or violence.
- Implement an employee assistance program: EAPs can help employees who are having a difficult time handling stress in their lives.
- Audit and improve security measures: Employers should establish a relationship with local law enforcement officials and a security consultant. Employers should also conduct an audit to determine areas of vulnerability and/or procedural weaknesses. Basic systems for protecting property, such as lighting, pass keys or cards, intercoms, employee identification, surveillance or alarm equipment and other systems or devices should be considered.
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