Most Workplaces Unprepared for Violence, According to Expert

Date First Published on SafetySmart Compliance: November 25th, 2013
Topics: Workplace Violence |

An expert in workplace violence says most American workplaces are unprepared for workplace violence and could be doing much more to protect their employees.

“There’s this tendency to throw our arms up and say, ‘We can’t prevent workplace violence from happening,’” says Tom Fuller, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Services at Illinois State University who works with businesses, local governments, labor organizations and victims on workplace violence initiatives.

Fuller says employers need to be better prepared for all types of workplace violence, including incidents that capture media attention—such as the recent Washington Navy Yard shooting, which resulted in 13 deaths, including the gunman—and homicides that occur at retail stores and bars.

Practical measures employers can take to better protect their workers from workplace violence include using physical controls such as lighting, cameras, alarms and screening systems for weapons or bombs, according to Fuller. Other measures include installing robust locks on doors so people can lock themselves into rooms during incidents of violence, providing multiple exit points from buildings, and implementing and using written training programs that teach workers how to respond to workplace violence.

“Most institutions don’t have written programs or get those out to their employees,” he says, adding that training could answer workers’ questions surrounding responses to workplace violence such as: Where do you go? What do you do? How do you respond?

Fuller notes that workers who witness or experience violence in the workplace often suffer psychological disorders and depression afterwards, yet aren’t offered help by their employers.

“These people have post-traumatic stress disorder and they need therapy. Often, work won’t cover the therapy. As a result, these people get depressed and might have to lose their jobs,” he says.

Related content:

This safety talk can offer your workers some sound advice for avoiding violent confrontations on the job.

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If you are in the United States: This article can help your workplace develop a workplace violence prevention strategy.

If you are in Canada: This article provides information on establishing an effective threat assessment team to respond to threats of violence in your workplace.