Preventing Workplace Violence Requires Simple Precautions

Jan. 3, 2006
Far too often, the holiday season, traditionally a time of family gatherings, celebrations and other festive activities, is marred by violence, often occurring in the workplace.

Law enforcement officials and domestic violence centers report increased levels of violence during the holidays, attributable to increased stress and fatigue, over-commercialization and financial pressures.

Vance, a global investigation and security consulting firm with extensive experience in dealing with risk management and workplace violence prevention, recommends some simple steps that companies and their employees can take during the holidays to avoid or reduce the threat of workplace violence.

"There are almost always warning signs that precede workplace violence during the holidays or at any other time," notes Ray O'Hara, Vance senior managing director. "By recognizing and acting on these warning signs, violent incidents can be prevented or controlled before they become tragedies."

Vance suggests that employees and managers:

  • Be on the alert for changes in behavior of colleagues. Signs include disruptive outbursts or anger out of proportion to the source of agitation, swift and observable mood swings or any extreme or unusual behavior.
  • Be aware of strangers in and around company facilities. Violence often is the result of outsiders entering the workplace for confrontations with employees.
  • Be familiar with emergency plans and procedures. Know how to evacuate offices and buildings if an emergency occurs. Encourage co-workers to do likewise.

Vance recommends that companies:

  • Review emergency procedures with employees. If none exist, make a New Year's resolution to institute them.
  • Remind employees of benefit programs providing counseling and stress reduction programs to reduce holiday and/or workplace stress and encourage employees to seek assistance for themselves or colleagues when needed.
  • Institute or review a formal plan of action for use in the event of emergencies.

"It is always better to act than react," O'Hara advises. "Don't ignore warning signs. Alert your managers to potentially dangerous situations and be empathetic to co-workers who may be struggling with holiday pressures and stress. The holidays should be a joyous time of year and can remain that way if simple, common-sense precautions are followed."

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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