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8 Vital Sections of a Workplace Violence Program

With the recent surge of workplace violence incidents attention has been raised to the quality of Workplace Violence Programs (WVP) nationwide. When any new employee enters a company, or current workers are retrained, they should be made familiar with the companies WVP.

What should this program include? There are several topics which should be covered in an effective WVP document.

1. Company Policy
2. Definitions & Identification
3. Prohibited Behaviors
4. Proper Reporting of Violent Acts or Threats
5. How to Handle Possible Future Violence
6. Proper Incident Investigation
7. Relief Measures
8. Training & Instruction

Each of these sections should provide clear, concise instruction for the employees. The goal of a WVP is for the employee to understand the importance of a safe workplace and how they can contribute to its safety.

1. Company Policy
The first thing a WVP should include is an outline of the company’s strict policy in regard to workplace to violence. After reading this section the employee should be fully aware of the penalties involved in workplace violence incidents. Using terms such a ‘zero-tolerance’ or ‘criminal prosecution’ should effectively get the message across that any violent behavior is not allowed. Ensuring the safety of those who report incidents and protecting them from retaliation should also be mentioned to encourage proper reporting.

2. Definition and Identification
If the employee is skeptical as to what qualifies as workplace violence then it is the purpose of this section to clarify any confusion. After reading this section an employee should be able to recognize when a situation is labeled as workplace violence or how to identify when a potential situation could occur. The most important definitions that the reader should learn is the proper classification of workplace violence and other issues such as what classifies as a “threat or intimidation.”

3. Prohibited Behaviors
The previous section deals in defining what constitutes “workplace violence.” This section formally lists the known actions which are prohibited and classified as workplace violence. The employee should be able to read this list and understand how each item on this falls under workplace violence. The list should include items such as:
*Intimidation tactics or direct threats
* Assault of any form
*Possession of weapons anywhere on or near company property
* Disruptive, angry behavior or language not intended for the workplace
* Disregard for the well-being and safety of others

4. Reporting Violent Acts or Threats
The first step in this section is for the employee to understand that there are appropriate reactions dependent on the severity of the issue. For instance, if the situation is deemed an emergency the employee should contact the authorities immediately and ensure their own safety. For less dangerous situations, ones that don’t require immediate attention, an employee should be instructed to report the incident to their supervisor and cooperate in whatever task they may be given (i.e. filing a report or acting as a witness in mediation).

5. How to Handle Potential Future Violence
If an employee feels that a potential workplace violence incident may occur in the future, then this section should clearly instruct the employee on how to approach the situation. For instance, if an employee has reason to believe that they, or other workers, may be victimized by a violent act, then it is in their best interest to immediately speak with a supervisor. The supervisor will inform the necessary staff within the workplace; if necessary, local law enforcement will be contacted. If an employee feels that their own safety is a concern, a restraining order should be provided legally protecting them from another individual; the appropriate staff (human resources, security, etc.) and officers should be made aware of any court order of this type.

6. Incident Investigation
Once a violent act or threat has occurred the best course of action is to immediately conduct an investigation to protect workers from any further harm. An internal investigation will be conducted to determine if the situation was in violation of company policy. A report should be provided to the police so they may also determine if civil or criminal laws were violated. The WVP should include a brief outline on how to conduct a proper investigation, including:
* Observing the scene of the workplace violence situation occurred
* Conducting interviews with those involved and witnesses to the incident
* Examine the area for risk factors that may have contributed to the situation
* Record any findings and observations in great detail

The company should also insure the safety of any participants of an investigation. This is done primarily by conducting the interviews in private and keeping the information recorded as confidential.

7. Relief Measures
After a workplace violence incident has occurred there are a set of important mitigating measures which should be taken. These measures should help to ensure the safety of the employee:
* If the incident potentially falls under criminal act then law enforcement should be notified
* Immediate first-aid to any injured in an a violent incident
* Restraining orders to ensure employee’s boundaries are protected, if necessary
*Counseling should be provided for post-event trauma to any who request assistance.

8. Training & Instruction
It is the company’s responsibility that every employee, regardless of department or role, is provided training and instruction on general workplace safety practices. A system should be in place to ensure that all new employees are trained when hired and current employees are retrained when a new policy is implemented. Training should include practical scenarios that teach:
* Understanding the company’s Workplace Violence Prevention Policy
* Methods to prevent or reduce the threat of workplace violence
* Potential escape routes in an emergency situation.

There are many models of content within an effective Workplace Violence Program document.

Contact one of our consultants toll free at 888-257-0124 to help develop your Workplace Violence Program.
Regardless of the structure, all the elements above should be included for a sound WVP. Most important, the information needs to be shared with all employees. Only after there is communication and training is there knowledge.

Part 3 of 4 articles in the workplace violence series.

Dr. Isabel Perry prescribes solutions to reduce risk, costs and increase production for all types of organizations. Dr. Perry is an Orlando, Florida based Safety Professional with over 20 years of broad-based safety experience including: safety speaker, safety consultant, expert witness, and former safety executive at a Fortune 50 company. Her clients include many multinational firms. Dr. Perry’s can be contacted at: Isabel@TheSafetyDoctor.com, phone: 407-291-1209.

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