ASSE Urges Employers To Establish Workplace Violence Prevention Policies

The American Society of Safety Engineers\r\nis urging employers to review their workplace violence prevention policies, conduct a risk assessment and vulnerability\r\naudit to prevent acts of workplace violence.

Based on the findings from its "Workplace Violence Survey and White Paper" and in light of the recent shootings at a truck engine plant in Melrose Park, Ill., the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is urging employers to review their workplace violence prevention policies, conduct a risk assessment and vulnerability audit to prevent additional acts of workplace violence.

A recent analysis of a national survey of safety professionals and risk managers done by ASSE and the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS) found that although the number of workplace violence incidents in the respondents'' workplaces have stayed the same, employees remain concerned.

While 41 percent of respondents replied that the number of workplace violence incidents at their organization has stayed about the same; 22 percent said that it has increased; 31 percent said no incidents have occurred; and 6 percent have noted a decrease.

In response to those concerns ASSE/RIMS white paper outlines several steps employers should take to prevent a violent incident and what can be done following one to help employees cope with the tragedy.

  • The white paper suggests that upper management of any organization needs to promote a clear anti-violence corporate policy by addressing the issue in a formal written policy that must be distributed and discussed with all employees.
  • Human resource managers are advised to examine and improve hiring practices, implement pre-screening techniques, utilize background checks, encourage employees to report threats or violent behavior, establish termination policies and provide post-termination counseling.
  • Risk management and safety departments are advised to train all employees in the warning signs of aggressive or violent behavior, train management in threat assessment and de-escalation techniques, review and verify insurance coverage.

When asked if their organization had provided training to help one identify warning signs leading to potentially violent behavior, 58 percent of the survey respondents said yes; 38 percent responded no; and 4 percent said they did not know.

And when asked if their organization had undergone a formal risk assessment of the potential for violent acts in the workplace, 70 percent said no; 16 percent said yes and 14 percent said they did not know.

The majority of the survey respondents came from the Pacific Coast with 20 percent, followed by the Mid-Atlantic states with 19 percent; the East-Central states with 15 percent; New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania states with 12 percent; Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas states with 10 percent; the Mountain and the West North Central states with 8 percent; the New England states with 5 percent; and the East South Central states with 3 percent.

The ASSE white paper also recommends that a supportive, harmonious work environment be fostered which allows employees to be empowered and at the same time empathetic management skills should be encouraged, as authoritarian leadership styles tend to promote higher rates of on-the-job violence.

Workplace violence is more than homicide, the white paper states, and harassment is the leading form of on-the-job workplace violence with 16 million workers being harassed each year.

Other violent acts can include stalking, threats, inappropriate communication, trespassing, telephone and e-mail harassment, property defacing and invasion of privacy.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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