Lynch Law Firm, PLLC
Reducing Workplace Violence in the Texas Workplace
All Texas companies are susceptible to claims based on workplace violence. Due to deeply-rooted legal principles, employers can be held liable for the acts of their employees, even when such acts are intentional and not within the scope of employment. Workplace violence can take on many forms, making it essential for employers and HR professionals to know how to identify it and prevent it.
Defining Workplace Violence
OSHA defines workplace violence as "any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening or disruptive behavior" that happens at the work site. Workplace violence can often be physical in nature, such as one employee assaulting another or the employees engaging in a physical fight. In other instances, it may be limited to verbal attacks. This term also includes threats external to the business, such as a criminal attacking an employee.
Effects of Workplace Violence
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, Homicide is the fourth-leading cause of fatal workplace injuries. Approximately two million American workers have reported being a victim of workplace violence each year. Workplace violence can affect other employees, clients, investors and others and can profoundly impact employee morale.
While any company may be affected by violence in the workplace, certain risk factors increase the odds that violence will be present. These include:
- Working late at night
- Working early in the morning
- Working in high crime areas
- Jobs that involve exchanging money with the public
- Guarding money or value property
- Delivery drivers
- Law enforcement workers
- Working alone
- Working in positions that have extensive contact with the public, such as visiting nurses, probation officers, healthcare providers, customer service employees and evaluators
- Working in a retail setting
- Having a mobile workplace
Preventing Workplace Violence
Employers are responsible for establishing a safe work environment. If they fail to meet this standard, injuries may result, and they ultimately can be held liable for them. Some ways to prevent violence in the workplace include:
Implementing an Anti-Workplace Violence Program
Employers may implement a program regarding workplace violence. Many use a zero-tolerance policy in which employees are aware that if they become violent, then they will immediately be terminated. This policy may apply to workers, clients, customers, independent contractors and others. All employees should be trained on the program and have a clear understanding of it. HR professionals may wish to incorporate the program into the employee handbook and have the employees sign that they are aware of the program and will abide by it.
Employees should be encouraged to report incidences of violence. They should know that any claims regarding violence will be promptly investigated and resolved. Encouraging reporting can alert management when there may be a problem and can stop it before any physical injury results.
Assess the Worksite
Employers may be able to carefully evaluate the worksite to identify ways which violent attacks can be prevented. Employers may want to consider implementing additional policies to reduce the likelihood of violence, such as requiring two people to go on trips instead of just one or providing drop safes, so workers handling money are not kept in a vulnerable position.
Provide Safety Training
Employees may be able to benefit from safety education. This allows them to recognize potential dangers and to take steps to guard against them. Additionally, the training may include content about violence in the workplace and reporting requirements.
Provide Communication Devices
Employers may be able to minimize any workplace injuries if they are promptly alerted to any threat of violence before it erupts. Providing employees with cell phones, handheld alarms, whistles or walkie talkies can help provide immediate notification of a problem.
Maintain Work Vehicles
Many employees who are attacked are attacked in their work vehicles. Keeping these vehicles in safe repair and adding additional safety layers may prevent violence.
If the business is large or employees may be in a particularly vulnerable position, employers may wish to consider hiring security. Having a security guard, installing video surveillance, adding extra lighting, limiting access to the workplace by security badge or engaging alarm systems can help minimize threats of violence.