Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Workplace Voilence

What is workplace violence?

Most people think of violence as a physical assault. However, workplace violence is a much broader problem. It is any act in which a person is abused, threatened, intimidated or assaulted in his or her employment. Workplace violence includes:
Threatening behaviour - such as shaking fists, destroying property or throwing objects.

verbal or written threats - any expression of an intent to inflict harm.

Harassment - any behaviour that demeans, embarrasses, humiliates, annoys, alarms or verbally abuses a person and that is known or would be expected to be unwelcome. This includes words, gestures, intimidation, bullying, or other inappropriate activities.

Verbal abuse - swearing, insults or condescending language.

Physical attacks - hitting, shoving, pushing or kicking.
Rumours, swearing, verbal abuse, pranks, arguments, property damage, vandalism, sabotage, pushing, theft, physical assaults, psychological trauma, anger-related incidents, rape, arson and murder are all examples of workplace violence.

Workplace violence is not limited to incidents that occur within a traditional workplace. Work-related violence can occur at off-site business-related functions (conferences, trade shows), at social events related to work, in clients' homes or away from work but resulting from work (a threatening telephone call to your home from a client).
What work-related factors increase the risk of violence?
Certain work factors, processes, and interactions can put people at increased risk from workplace violence. Examples include:

working with the public.
handling money, valuables or prescription drugs (e.g. cashiers, pharmacists).
carrying out inspection or enforcement duties (e.g. government employees).
providing service, care, advice or education (e.g. health care staff, teachers).
working with unstable or volatile persons (e.g. social services, or criminal justice system employees).
working in premises where alcohol is served (e.g. food and beverage staff).
working alone, in small numbers (e.g. store clerks, real estate agents), or in isolated or low traffic areas (e.g. washrooms, storage areas, utility rooms).
working in community-based settings (e.g. nurses, social workers and other home visitors).
having a mobile workplace (e.g. taxicab).
working during periods of intense organizational change (e.g. strikes, downsizing).
Risk of violence may be greater at certain times of the day, night or year; For example,

late hours of the night or early hours of the morning,
tax return season,
overdue utility bill cut-off dates,
pay days,
report cards or parent interviews, and
performance appraisals.
Which occupational groups tend to be most at risk from workplace violence?

Certain occupational groups tend to be more at risk from workplace violence. These occupations include:

health care employees,
correctional officers,
social services employees,
municipal housing inspectors,
public works employees, and
retail employees.
How to prevent violence in my workplace?

The most important component of any workplace violence prevention program is management commitment. Management commitment is best communicated in a written policy. The policy must:

be developed by management and employee representatives.

apply to management, employee's, clients, independent contractors and anyone who has a relationship with your company.

define what you mean by workplace violence in precise, concrete language.

provide clear examples of unacceptable behaviour and working conditions.

state in clear terms your organization's view toward workplace violence and its commitment to the prevention of workplace violence.

precisely state the consequences of making threats or committing violent acts.

outline the process by which preventive measures will be developed..

encourage reporting of all incidents of violence.

outline the confidential process by which employees can report incidents and to whom.

assure no reprisals will be made against reporting employees.

outline the procedures for investigating and resolving complaints.

describe how information about potential risks of violence will be communicated to employees.
make a commitment to provide support services to victims of violence.

offer a confidential Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to allow employees with personal problems to seek help.

make a commitment to fulfil the violence prevention training needs of different levels of personnel within the organization.

make a commitment to monitor and regularly review the policy.

state applicable regulatory requirements.

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