How safe is your workplace? Depending upon the type of business, you probably have safety rules and procedures, require safety equipment, etc., but do you have policies on workplace violence and security? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires all employers to provide a safe workplace including protection from internal and external violence.
Workplace violence includes any act of aggression or physical assault (hitting, slapping, shoving, tripping, intentionally causing injury) or threatening behavior (intimidation, bullying, verbal abuse) that occurs in the work environment and involves employees and/or customers.
Other than the obvious physical and emotional trauma suffered by victims, workplace violence also impacts the business due to increased absenteeism, decreased morale, lower productivity, more workers’ compensation claims, property damage and sometimes even death of an employee.
As an employer, here are some steps that you can take to promote a safe work environment:
- Prohibit workplace violence, including bullying and harassment, in your Code of Conduct for employees. Include procedures for reporting incidents and guarantee protection from retaliation.
- Lead by example! Make sure that being a tough, demanding boss hasn’t crossed the line to becoming a bully. Treat employees with respect and create a workplace culture where people are not belittled, teased, or talked to in a demeaning way.
- Address inappropriate behavior when it occurs. A one-time incident can become a habit if not corrected. In serious situations, you may need to tell the abusive person (whether employee, customer, vendor or visitor) to leave the worksite.
- Employers may legally prohibit employees and others from bringing weapons into the workplace (some exceptions to weapons stored in personal vehicles parked on company property) even if they are lawfully permitted to carry weapons, however you should include this prohibition in your Employee Handbook and post notices at the worksite entrance(s.)
- Secure access to the worksite. Lock external doors so that someone cannot enter without authorization. Provide adequate lighting in and around the worksite. When was the last time you checked to make sure lights were operational? A comprehensive security audit can help you identify ways to improve safety for your employees.
- Take threats seriously. When someone (employee – current or former, family or friend of an employee, customers, etc.) makes a credible threat to hurt someone or damage property – immediately report that threat to law enforcement.
An HR professional can help you with all of your human resources needs, from hiring the right employees, running background checks, creating employee handbooks that include anti-harassment policies and procedures, managing employee performance, staying legally compliant, automating employee records, and other related services you need to create an environment where employees can provide the tasks that you need to run your business.