How to prevent violence in the workplace

Would you know how to spot a violent employee?

How to prevent violence in the workplace

Each year, thousands of employees are subjected to workplace violence – be it physical attacks or intimidation and harassment.

According to Statistics Canada, 19% of women and 13% of men report to have been harassed on the job, with verbal abuse listed as the top offender. With the rate of attacks so high, it falls upon HR to put measures in place to prevent further altercations.

In their tenth article of the series, Workplace Safety & Prevention Services’ (WSPS) spoke to HRD Canada about the prevalence of violence in the workplace – and how to stop any situations from arising.

“Under OHSA, the employer has the responsibility to take all precautions reasonable in the circumstances to protect the health and safety of a worker,” explained WSPS consultant Krista Schmid.

“Specific to violence in the workplace, the employer is required to establish a Violence Prevention Policy and a program to support the policy. Within the program, the employer is required to conduct violence risk assessments of the workplace and to put control measures in place to manage those risks.

“Also, the program must include a reporting procedure that also links to emergency responses, in order to get assistance to a worker that is in immediate danger. The Refusal to Work Procedure must include provisions for workers to be able to refuse unsafe work due to immediate threat of violence. The program also must include a process for investigation and resolution of reported violence incidents. The program should address training for all employees to be able to understand and comply with the requirements of the legislation and the program.”

So, bearing this in mind, are there any warning signs HR should be on the look-out for? HRD has noted some points to abide by:

  • Recognizing that increasing incidents or bullying, harassment and other inappropriate behaviour could indicate escalation of the potential of violence
  • Certain workplaces, by their nature have higher risk of potential violence. This includes working alone or in isolated conditions, having direct contact with customers, handling valuables, transporting goods and people, dealing with unstable customers etc.
  • Factors such as changes in the workplace environment, setting, conditions, sustainability, job security have the potential to spark violence 

In order to prevent any workplace violence, employers should take the chance to educate themselves, Helpful tools and resources can be found on the WSPS homepage here.

“Understand the workplace factors which contribute to a thriving, or conversely a toxic, workplace culture,” added Krista. “This includes civility and respect. When creating your own Violence Policy, consider such resources as the Codes of Ethics, Behavior and Conduct.

“Help employees identity what are appropriate behaviours, rather than focusing wholly on the negative outcomes. Staff need to feel psychologically safe in the workplace in order to report and bring forward issues of concerning conduct and managers need to understand the harassment-violence continuum in order to take all issues seriously.”

Each year, thousands of employees are subjected to workplace violence – be it physical attacks or intimidation and harassment.

According to Statistics Canada, 19% of women and 13% of men report to have been harassed on the job, with verbal abuse listed as the top offender. With the rate of attacks so high, it falls upon HR to put measures in place to prevent further altercations.

In their tenth article of the series, Workplace Safety & Prevention Services’ (WSPS) spoke to HRD Canada about the prevalence of violence in the workplace – and how to stop any situations from arising.

“Under OHSA, the employer has the responsibility to take all precautions reasonable in the circumstances to protect the health and safety of a worker,” explained WSPS consultant Krista Schmid.

“Specific to violence in the workplace, the employer is required to establish a Violence Prevention Policy and a program to support the policy. Within the program, the employer is required to conduct violence risk assessments of the workplace and to put control measures in place to manage those risks.

“Alo, the program must include a reporting procedure that also links to emergency responses, in order to get assistance to a worker that is in immediate danger. The Refusal to Work Procedure must include provisions for workers to be able to refuse unsafe work due to immediate threat of violence. The program also must include a process for investigation and resolution of reported violence incidents. The program should address training for all employees to be able to understand and comply with the requirements of the legislation and the program.”

So, bearing this in mind, are there any warning signs HR should be on the look-out for? HRD has noted some points to abide by:

  • Recognizing that increasing incidents or bullying, harassment and other inappropriate behaviour could indicate escalation of the potential of violence
  • Certain workplaces, by their nature have higher risk of potential violence. This includes working alone or in isolated conditions, having direct contact with customers, handling valuables, transporting goods and people, dealing with unstable customers etc.
  • Factors such as changes in the workplace environment, setting, conditions, sustainability, job security have the potential to spark violence 

In order to prevent any workplace violence, employers should take the chance to educate themselves, Helpful tools and resources can be found on the WSPS homepage here.

“Understand the workplace factors which contribute to a thriving, or conversely a toxic, workplace culture,” added Krista. “This includes civility and respect. When creating your own Violence Policy, consider such resources as the Codes of Ethics, Behavior and Conduct.

“Help employees identity what are appropriate behaviours, rather than focusing wholly on the negative outcomes. Staff need to feel psychologically safe in the workplace in order to report and bring forward issues of concerning conduct and managers need to understand the harassment-violence continuum in order to take all issues seriously.”

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