Dealing with violence in the workplace

by Human Capital19 Jul 2012

A South Australian man appeared in the district court in Adelaide this week, after pleading guilty to hacking an internet provider’s servers, threatening to burn down the offices of the ISP and, while armed with an axe, threatening to attack its owner.

Reports of incidents of workplace violence are on the increase and have HR concerned because, legally, employers have an obligation to ensure their employees are safe from any such situations.

A Massey University survey last year found at least a third of employees had suffered violence at work, but a violence prevention consultation said the real figure was probably significantly higher. To help create a safer work environment and decrease the chance of workplace violence, the Crisis Prevention Institute, which operates in both Australia and New Zealand offered HR the following tips:

1. Assess the work environment
Critically examine all areas of your work environment – including parking lots, entryways, reception areas, work areas, and offices. Check that lighting is adequate, that there are convenient escape routes, and that there is a way to summon assistance.

2. Pay attention to warning signs
Many people who become violent communicate their intentions in advance. Threats from customers, co-workers, or third parties should be recorded and reported immediately.

3. Promote respect
The best way to prevent violence in the workplace is to foster a day-to-day attitude of respect and consideration in your work environment.

4. Eliminate potential weapons
Take a mental inventory of objects around your immediate work area which could be potential weapons. Remove or secure objects that could be thrown.

5. Devise, and communicate, violence response procedures
Violence response procedures are simple plans designed to minimise injury during a violent incident. Such procedures should include a plan to summon assistance and move people to a safe area.

6. Always trust your instincts
Don’t ignore your internal warning system. If you sense impending danger, react accordingly.

7. Employ a team approach
Implement and encourage the use of a “buddy system” for any situations in which hostility could occur.


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