Workplace violence prevention

Workplace violence prevention should be a top priority for any business owner, as every year thousands of American workers report having been victims of workplace violence. In fact, between 2021 and 2022, workplace assaults resulted in over 57,000 injuries according to National Safety Council. Although the health care and social service industries experience the highest rates of injuries caused by workplace violence, it can happen in any industry.

We’ve provided 4 easy steps that employers can take to help prevent violence, harassment and bullying in the workplace, such as comprehensive training and awareness for employees, and creating a workplace environment that helps to reduce stress and conflict, which plays a vital role in minimizing risks. We will also discuss California’s new Senate Bill 553 and what it means for employers.

1. Establish Violence, Harassment, and Bullying Prevention Policies 

One of the best ways employers can protect their workers is by establishing a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence.  A well-written and implemented workplace violence prevention program, in conjunction with engineering controls, administrative controls and training can reduce the incidence of workplace violence. This program can be incorporated into your current injury illness prevention program (IIPP) or added separately.

2. Effective Communication to Prevent Workplace Violence

Open communications helps reduce misunderstandings and tensions that can lead to aggressive behaviors or violent acts. It also helps in setting expectations and boundaries regarding acceptable behavior within the workplace. It ensures that all employees are aware of the organization’s policies on violence, harassment, and bullying. Open communication will also help employees feel that their concerns are being heard and rightly addressed.

3. Workplace Violence Prevention Training

Training programs help teach workers the early warning signs of potential violence, which teaches them how to mitigate risks before they turn into actual violence. Employees learn not only to notice concerning behaviors among their colleagues but also to understand the appropriate channels through which to report their observations. Additionally, train workers to be situationally aware, which can help identify potential risks and intervene early. Read the infographic below to learn about the 4 levels of situational awareness:

4. Maintain a Healthy Workplace

A healthy workplace often includes comprehensive policies and practices aimed at preventing workplace violence. These may encompass clear codes of conduct, robust conflict resolution mechanisms, and regular training sessions on recognizing and de-escalating potentially violent situations. Educating workers on the signs of increased tensions and how to respond helps them to become active participants in maintaining a safe workplace.

California Senate Bill 553

Senate Bill 553 will require most California employers to develop their own workplace violence prevention (WPV) plans, beginning July 1, 2024. Employer plans must be developed and implemented, which requires:

  • Hazard Evaluation – includes secured door entry points (key cards, electronic controls (buzzer), and parking lots secured by fencing and sufficient lighting
  • Implementing a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan – such as employee communication, incident reporting procedures and emergency response
  • Workplace Violence Employee Training –  Training workers on discussing non-physical de-escalation techniques, and proper response to emergencies (i.e. active shooter).

OSTS can develop your company-specific Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (WVPP) as required by SB 553. The program will include all necessary elements and procedures, including forms to assist in accomplishing and documenting incident or threats.

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