Controlling the threat of workplace violence
The headlines garnered by the arrest of a Yale lab technician who
was charged with murdering a graduate student in the research building
where they both worked is a sobering reminder of the insidious, unexpected
nature of workplace violence. According to Bureau of Justice statistics,
an estimated 1.7 million workers are injured each year in workplace
assaults – an average of 33,000 per week.
Workplace violence is a difficult subject for employers. It’s
hard to talk about and no one wants to believe it can happen in their
company. Yet the threat is very real.
Strategies to help prevent workplace violence include:
- Developing a Workplace Violence Policy Statement that sets the
standards for acceptable workplace behavior.
- Establishing a zero-tolerance approach: no violence and no threats,
even in a joking manner.
- Clear, written policy, detailing how threats can be reported
and how they will be investigated.
- Preemployment screening and background checks consistent with
privacy protection and antidiscriminatory laws.
- Recognize common potential “triggers”:
- Personality conflicts
- Termination/disciplinary actions
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Personal problems, domestic issues
- Undue stress
- Be alert to warning signs:
- Outbursts of anger
- Changes in behavior
- Feelings of unfair treatment
- Defensive, hostile attitude
- Suicide threats
- Investigate all threats thoroughly.
- Address all threats and threatening behavior and apply discipline
consistent with the severity and company policy.
- Train all staff on workplace violence and what steps to take should
There are a number of excellent, free resources available to help
develop a program:
FBI -Workplace Violence – Issues
OSHA –Workplace Violence
NIOSH – Video – Violence on the Job
Resources / References