Violence in the Workplace: Warning Signs and Steps to Take to Reduce Your Risk

Violence in the Workplace: Warning Signs and Steps to Take to Reduce Your Risk

In the last few weeks, we’ve seen numerous headlines where violence has occurred in the workplace or in the course of someone performing their job.  As you may know, employers must comply with OSHA’s general duty clause to provide a safe workplace for their employees.  Many times, co-workers or family members have said they saw warning signs prior to the violent incident occurring.

Let’s look at some of the possible warning signs you and your employees should be aware of as potential threats for workplace violence.

Possible Workplace Violence Warning Signs:

  • Angers quickly and frequently
  • Uses abusive language
  • Makes violent threats
  • Lets others know they own weapons and can use them
  • Blames others for problems
  • Holds a grudge
  • Is rigid and inflexible
  • Believes others are out to get them
  • Likes to talk about violent crime
  • Brings weapons to work
  • Suffers from extreme stress
  • Has a drug or alcohol abuse problem
  • Demonstrates mood swings
  • Has a history of violence

Here are some steps employers can take to prevent or mitigate workplace violence:

  • Consider conducting background screenings, drug testing, and reference checks before hiring someone
  • Follow and enforce workplace security rules
    • Don’t leave doors open, admit strangers, etc.
  • Ask employees to report any threats of violence or retaliation
    • Create a culture where employees feel comfortable coming forward with concerns
  • Be alert for changes in employee behavior or circumstances
    • Don’t ignore troubling employee behavior, statements, or attitudes
    • Let employees know they can confidentially report concerns without repercussions and to whom they can report these concerns
  • Be aware of potential personal situations that could bring violence into the workplace
    • Abuse or domestic violence, divorce, etc.
  • Have another person present when you have to discipline or terminate an employee
    • Treat the employee with dignity and respect
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