Create a zero-tolerance workplace
From all accounts, workplace violence results in significant personal and organizational costs, all of which can be reduced or eliminated through a comprehensive workplace violence prevention program. Progressive employers are implementing such programs to meet their emerging legal obligations and reduce liability. A comprehensive framework that minimizes the risk of workplace violence, according to the Canadian Initiative on Workplace Violence, includes:
- A violence-prevention policy.
- Every organization should develop such a policy and put it in writing. This document
should be the foundation of an employer’s violence-prevention program. The policy should—at a minimum—communicate the organization’s commitment to preventing workplace violence, provide an overview of its violence-prevention program, and establish clear standards of behaviour that apply to all employees, managers, contractors and clients.
- Risk assessment.
- To effectively prevent workplace violence, employers must understand workplace-violence risk factors within their workplaces. Risk assessment should build on this general understanding and include input from
both management and employees. The risk assessment should also identify the most significant concerns of an organization.
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- Prevention measures.
- The next step is to develop specific measures to eliminate or minimize the risks identified in
the risk assessment. Preventive measures should include training and education, as well as improvements to workplace design, administrative practices and work practices.
- Reporting and investigating procedures.
- Workplace violence is frequently underreported. Every workplace should
have a clearly defined system for reporting, recording and investigating incidents or possible incidents of violence. The credibility of any violence-prevention program depends, in part, on how quickly and effectively reports are handled. Workplace-violence investigations may have serious legal consequences and, therefore, should only be assigned to those with the appropriate skills, experience and authority. Many organizations are now considering creating special teams to investigate reports of workplace violence.
- An emergency response plan.
- From both an individual and organizational perspective, establishing a specific plan
that clearly outlines how to respond to a serious incident before it happens is essential. The plan should be comprehensive enough to deal with most incidents, but easy enough to understand and remember.
- Victim-assistance program.
- Employers have an opportunity immediately following an incident to demonstrate their concern for the victim, and implement an effective and comprehensive response to violence. Many progressive organizations have such programs, which are sometimes available through their Employee Assistance Program provider.
- Incident follow-up.
- Incident follow-up should occur some time after the incident has been investigated and recommendations have been made. All incidents should be classified according to key characteristics, such as similarities or common patterns. Incident follow-up is part of an organization’s ongoing effort to assess risk and improve prevention and response strategies.
- Training and education.
- Education and training are an indispensable part of any violence prevention program. The exact content and type of training depends on the results of the risk assessment and workplace-specific prevention program. At the very least, all employees should be familiar with the organization’s violence-prevention policy.
- Program review.
- Routine program review is critical in meeting organizational and employee needs. Ensuring that the program is current and responsive is a testament to an organization’s commitment to a safe workplace.