According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), workplace violence is defined as an act or threat of physical violence, intimidation, harassment, bullying, or any other disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site.
Being able to recognize the causes and risks of workplace violence is very important in order to reduce incidents and implement safety measures. In this article, we will talk about the 4 types of workplace violence, the risk factors you can find in different industries, and the preventive actions you can take.
If you need help reducing workplace violence and building a safe environment for your employees, EasyLlama offers training material designed to increase diversity and inclusion awareness, as well as prevent discrimination and sexual harassment.
Although it can have many sources and take many shapes, the types of workplace violence have been broken down into 4 different categories: Criminal Intent, client-to-worker, worker-to-worker, and domestic violence. Here's a review of each of them:
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Type One: Criminal Intent
In this type of workplace violence, the primary motive is theft. In the case of a criminal intent, the perpetrator doesn't have a relationship with the targeted business or its employees. This can be a robbery or shoplifting incident that turns violent and leads to assault. Terrorism acts would also apply to this type of workplace violence.
- A store clerk is held at gunpoint while two men steal money from the cash register.
- A healthcare worker is assaulted in the hospital's parking lot.
According to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), robbery is the most common reason for work-related homicide, which accounts for 85 percent of workplace violence deaths. Those at higher risk are workers who exchange cash, work alone or work night shifts.
Type Two: Client-to-Worker
In a client-to-worker violence incident, the perpetrator has a legitimate relationship with the business (hospital, clinic, restaurant, etc.). It can be a customer, patient, inmate or student that becomes violent while being served by the victim (waiter, nurse, prison guard or teacher) resulting in an assault.
- A customer at a restaurant spits and yells at the waiter for getting their order wrong.
- A disturbed patient hits a doctor while being examined.
This type of workplace violence incidents are most common in healthcare settings like emergency treatments and waiting rooms (according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention) but student-to-teacher assault cases are also very common.
Type Three: Worker-to-Worker (Lateral Violence)
In this type of workplace violence, the perpetrator has an employment relationship with the affected institution. It can be an assault such as a threat of physical violence by an employee (current or former) to another co-worker, supervisor or manager. The motive is usually work-related or interpersonal conflicts among employees.
- An employee starts an argument with his supervisor because he denied his request for vacation, he gets upset and ends up physically assaulting him.
- A salesperson is offended because a co-worker "stole" one of his clients. He uses offensive language and threatens to hurt him if he sees him outside of work.
Worker-to-worker violence incidents can be manifested as verbal abuses, intimidation and physical aggression, all considered workplace harassment. Bullying among employees also falls into this category. Incidents often happen when an employee may be seeking revenge for unfair treatment by a supervisor or manager.
Type Four: Domestic Violence (Personal Relationships)
In domestic violence incidents, the perpetrator has a personal relationship with the employee but usually is not employed at that workplace. These usually involve a romantic or domestic dispute that leads to an assault or threat and takes place inside the victim's workplace.
- An ex-boyfriend repeatedly calls a receptionist's office to threaten her and ask coworkers about her daily habits.
- The husband of a waitress follows her to work and threatens her for jealousy reasons.
In some cases, the victim's co-workers may also be assaulted by the offender when trying to intervene or help in some way. Although many employers or workers may not recognize domestic violence as a workplace hazard, if it is interfering with the victim at work, it can eventually translate to workplace violence and environmental issues.
Workplace Violence Prevention
Being prepared for any type of workplace violence is key to every organization's well-being. This includes both having prevention measures as well as action plans to execute in case of any incidents.
Certain industries, including healthcare, taxi drivers and gas stations are considered as high risk for workplace violence incidents. It is important to understand the factors that can make your workplace a dangerous environment. Here are some of the settings that are most vulnerable:
Factors that increase the risk of workplace violence:
- Working alone or in isolated areas
- Working with unstable or volatile people often in health care, or social service settings.
- Working in locations where the public access is not controlled.
- Workplaces where alcohol is served.
- Customer service agents that have face-to-face interactions with clients.
- Police and law enforcement workers.
- Employees in charge of guarding money or valuable property.
- Delivery of passengers, services or products.
Tips for workplace violence prevention
As an employer, safety in the workplace is your responsibility. The risk of workplace violence cannot be 100 percent eliminated, but taking the necessary preventive measures will help to reduce it significantly. Here are some of the most important practices you can adopt in your business:
Reduce the number of assets on hand
You can reduce the risk of potential workplace violence and robberies by keeping the number of assets (valuable property) at your facility to a bare minimum. Try to reduce the amount of cash handled by using electronic payment systems and install a locked drop safe.
Provide security and monitor visitors
Having extra layers of security in place can reduce the risk of workplace violence incidents. You can have security guards patrolling your facility, install cameras for video surveillance or implement a "check-in" or registration procedure for all visitors. Also, consider the use of "visitor" badges to make them easily recognizable.
This way you can manage and have control over who has access to the premises and what is the purpose of their visit.
Complete background checks
When hiring new employees, one of the first and most important steps is to conduct a thorough background check. This will help you identify if the candidate has a violent past and might have conduct that leads to workplace violence incidents. If something comes up, you can ask for an explanation, making sure it matches the information on the report.
You may decide to back off on the job offer so you can keep that kind of behavior from affecting your workplace.
Adopt safety guidelines for workplaces with direct contact with the public
In order to prevent workplace violence in settings where employees have direct contact with the public, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends the implementation of safety guidelines.
These include the use of physical barriers to protect workers, mirrors and raised platforms paired with bright lightning to increase visibility, and panic buttons or silent alarm systems. It is also recommended to install locks on doors leading to staff-only areas.
Implement a zero-tolerance policy towards any kind of workplace violence
It is very important to create firm policies that encourage your team to report harassing or abusive conduct as well as any other disruptive behavior that occurs at work. The zero-tolerance policy must leave no room for favoritism. This means that punishments should apply consistently among all employees regardless of who is violating the policy.
You should also make sure all employees are aware of the consequences and adopt a firm stance that shows your organization's commitment to preventing workplace violence.
Provide workplace violence training
You should provide training sessions to all employees to ensure awareness and understanding of situations that represent a risk of workplace violence. Employees must know how to recognize and respond to a violent incident.
Training programs addressing workplace violence can include topics like diversity and inclusion, as well as sexual harassment and discrimination.
If you are not sure where to start, EasyLlama gives you all the tools you will need to provide easy and effective training to all your employees.
With real-time progress tracking, online access on any device, and interactive, engaging material, we help you increase awareness and create a safe work environment.