Workplace violence is every employer’s nightmare. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, each year nearly two million Americans report that they had been victims of workplace violence. Whether that violence comes in the form of physical assault, threats or verbal abuse, it can cause serious harm to your employees, to employee morale and to the smooth operation of your business.
Though there are a lot of things you can do to prevent workplace violence, once it has occurred, your primary concern should be the safety of your employees and your facilities. After you’ve confirmed everyone is safe and sound, there are many other essentials to consider.
Here are just a few to think about:
Once things are safe
When immediate danger has passed and the threat has been alleviated, communications will be of utmost importance. Keep in mind that with the prevalence of social media and the 24/7 news cycle, word of a violent incident is bound to leak out almost as soon as it happens.
The sooner you address your staff, your clients, your vendors and the public (if necessary), the easier it will be to alleviate heightened emotions and offset unsubstantiated rumors.
As soon as you have secured the safety of your staff and communicated initial instructions, you’ll need to assess the condition of your business.
Here are some questions to consider:
- Is there damage to your facilities that needs to be repaired? Was gas, electricity or anything else turned off and needs to be turned back on?
- Were you forced to send employees home? Do they know when to return?
- Can your business stay open in the meantime? If not, how soon can you up and running? How will people know when you’ve re-opened your doors?
- Have you let customers or vendors know what’s going on?
- Is the media interested in what happened? Have you designated a company spokesperson? Remember that any information you share – internally or externally — needs to be delivered without breaching confidentiality.
If you have an employee assistance program (EAP), it’s time to put them on standby to provide on-site counseling and referrals or long-term help via phone.
In the days following an incident
Again, multiple means of communication will be critical to your company’s welfare following violence in the workplace.
Company or department meetings provide helpful forums where employees can voice their concerns or ask questions. Keep in mind that management or other company spokespeople may need some coaching on what information they can share. Ongoing information can be distributed through emails, memos, newsletters or other means your company typically uses.
If you have multiple worksites, you may need to prepare different messages, with more of the specifics communicated to workers who were closest to the incident. All messages, however, should reassure employees of their safety and illustrate the steps that have been taken to prevent further problems.
You will also need to perform a thorough assessment of what happened, why it happened and what can be done to prevent a similar incident from happening again. At this point, workplace violence prevention should be your primary focus.
With a thorough assessment of the incident in hand, an action plan developed by a multi-disciplinary emergency committee should be your next step. By involving employees as well as management, you can establish trust throughout the company and get better feedback than you would with a committee of only top level executives.
With this committee, you can examine your prevention process, company security, communication capabilities as well as decide whether you need to add elements such as emergency evacuation drills or safe places to your process.
If you’re not sure your company has the right safety programs in place, talk to Insperity about how we can help you meet compliance, train your employees and a lot more.