Safety Tips Office safety

Workplace violence and security: Are your employees safe?

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Photo: Paul Wleklinski

Is your office prepared to deal with workplace violence? If you’re unsure or think it’s unlikely to occur, consider this: “Some 2 million American workers are victims of workplace violence each year,” states OSHA, which adds that “workplace violence can strike anywhere, and no one is immune.”

Noting that workplace violence can take place at or outside of work, OSHA defines it as violence or the threat of violence against workers “that can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide.”

At risk

Although workplace violence can happen anywhere at any time, certain workers are at increased risk, OSHA states. These include employees who exchange money with the public, work alone or in small groups, and work early morning or late-night shifts. Additionally, workers in certain industries (e.g., health care and social services, and gas and water utilities), as well as phone and cable TV installers, letter carriers, and retail workers, are at increased risk.

How employers can keep workers safe

It’s important to acknowledge workplace violence is a real threat, and take it seriously. “The best protection employers can offer is to establish a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence against or by their employees,” OSHA states. The agency advises employers to create a workplace violence prevention program and ensure all employees thoroughly understand it.

Other tips for keeping workers safe include:

  • Provide safety education for employees so they know what behavior is and isn’t acceptable.
  • Consider installing video surveillance, extra lighting and alarm systems.
  • Minimize access by outsiders by using identification badges, electronic keys and, if necessary, security guards.
  • Ensure field staff and employees working alone have cellphones and handheld alarms, and require them to report in regularly.
  • Instruct workers to never enter a location that they feel may be unsafe.

Workers need to know employers have a system in place for their protection. “It is critical to ensure that all employees know the policy and understand that all claims of workplace violence will be investigated and remedied promptly,” OSHA states.

For more information, including what steps workers can take to protect themselves, as well as what employers should do after a workplace violence incident, visit www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/factsheet-workplace-violence.pdf.

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