How to Prevent Workplace Violence: Tips for Reducing Threats

You may not able to prevent every incident of workplace violence, but most can be avoided with these simple, proactive measures.



The recent Oscars event overshadowed any award winners and set the stage for employers everywhere to remain vigilant about providing a safe working environment. (It also serves as a silent reminder about what is and isn’t appropriate content for a joke.)

But how do you prevent workers from striking a nerve or uncontrollably expressing their anger? While not every slap in the face can be predicted, the following tips will help prevent or reduce workplace violence incidents.

Preventing Workplace Violence: Have a Zero-Tolerance Workplace Violence Policy

One of the best protections for your company against workplace violence incidents is to establish a zero-tolerance workplace violence policy and prevention program. Include a separate policy as part of your employee handbook and provide ongoing employee.

In your workplace violence prevention program, establish a grievance/complaint procedure and ensure your employees and managers know how to respond to incidents of violence. Let employees know that all claims of workplace violence will be investigated and promptly remedied.

Preventing Workplace Violence: Avoid Negligent Hires

A great way to avoid workplace violence outbreaks is to avoid hiring offenders in the first place. While screening potential first-time offenders is not as simple, you can avoid hiring a repeat offender with the following strategies:

  • Conduct reference checks. While some former employers may have workplace policies that limit what they’re allowed to share, you can legally ask about the candidate’s history of workplace violence in a reference check.
  • Drug test job applicants. Although this could get expensive, testing all your job applicants could deter drug abusers and save you time from interviewing and filtering through candidates. You could also wait and only test your top candidate(s), then make the job offer contingent on a negative drug test. There may be state rules about providing notice to applicants about your drug testing policy, so please contact your certified Rep first.
  • Screen via a background check. Background checks can also get expensive, depending on how extensively you dive (federal, state, county, etc.). If you only screen your top candidate(s), make a conditional offer of employment upon completion of the background check. But remember, not all criminal convictions should be treated the same, as some convictions may have different implications for job roles and requirements.

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Preventing Workplace Violence: Recognize Potential Warning Signs

Sometimes people react as an emotional stir and others commit violence for revenge, robbery, or a conflicting ideology. While there’s no way to predict every incident of workplace violence, the following behaviors may be potential warning signs:

  • Changes in behavior
  • Sensitivity to feedback
  • Sarcasm, angry remarks, or easily irritable
  • Slip in job performance
  • Tardy or absent often
  • More emotional and/or more errors than usual
  • Threats
  • Using a raised voice or profanity
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Violation of company policies
  • Paranoia
  • Depression or withdrawal
  • Suicidal comments
  • Complaints about unfair treatment

Educate your employees about these warning signs and provide an outlet for them to report concerning behavior.

Preventing Workplace Violence: Ensure Security Measures

While every company is different with needs unique to its industry, company make-up, and geographical area, nearly every business can make improvements to their security measures. This may include monitoring systems, limited access key cards, employee identification cards, emergency warning systems, and safe rooms in case of emergencies. Depending on your workplace, you may also want to implement security guards, visitor sign-in policies, and security escorts for those working late.

Preventing Workplace Violence: Bottom Line

One of your primary roles as an employer is to create a safe work environment for your staff, vendors, customers, and visitors. Be proactive and let your employees know you care about their safety. For help with implementing any of the above measures, please contact your certified Rep.

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