by Irene A. Blake
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 18 percent of the 4,690 fatal occupational injuries in the United States in 2010 were the result of workplace violence. To prevent violence in the workplace, small business owners must strive to recognize employee behaviors and actions, and workplace situations and conditions that often precipitate workplace violence.
Types of Violence
One or more people at your business may verbally or physically assault individuals or groups in premeditated and targeted attacks, or impulsive and random attacks. A person may also commit self-harm or suicide. Workplace incidents can involve violence between coworkers, employees and their relatives, or customers and staff. Violence can also occur against visitors, an entire business or anyone of a specific age, race, gender, ethnicity, or religious, military or political affiliation.
Employees and others with violent backgrounds often commit workplace violence. A history of violent acts may include violent or even verbally abusive behavior toward former coworkers, employers, a spouse or strangers, as well as damage to property. The person may or may not have a criminal record.
Mental or Physical Illness
Violence can also result from mental or physical illness. The violence may stem from symptoms of the illness or reactions to treatments or medications the person takes to improve his mental or physical state. The person may have difficulty distinguishing between fantasy and reality and may act violently because of a real or perceived threat or grievance.
Obsession with Violence
People obsessed with talking about tools of violence, or violence in the media, in an industry that doesn’t involve weapons may have and act on violent thoughts. One sign that a person’s interest is an unhealthy obsession is using work computers to visit websites about weapons or violence. An obsessed person may also bring a weapon to work to show to others, even if he knows doing so is against workplace policy.
Employees and others with addiction to substances such as drugs or alcohol may also behave violently in a workplace. While high or intoxicated, a person may become easily angered, frustrated or paranoid and lack impulse control, or have a physical reaction to a substance, resulting in violent behavior.
The FBI warns that people who threaten or harass others, become increasing belligerent or can’t handle criticism may become violent. Additional warning signs include extreme disorganization and obsession with a coworker or workplace issue. Employees dealing with family, money, legal or romantic problems may also act out violently.
Workplace Situations and Conditions
Workplace factors that can contribute to violent events include layoffs, firings and other business restructuring, understaffing and mismanagement. Employees faced with poorly defined job requirements, inadequate job training, difficult managers, unhealthy work environments or increased job-related accidents may also act violently because of frustration or anger.
Creating a Safer Workplace
Conducting thorough criminal background and reference pre-employment checks to rule out candidates with histories of violence, and hiring security to screen visitors, are two ways small business owners can improve workplace safety. You can also reduce violence by engaging employees and openly addressing their problems and concerns. Training to help employees reduce stress, handle conflicts effectively, improve communication and recognize the characteristics and patterns of workplace violence can also help.
Source : chron