According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), ‘Workplace violence is the act or threat of violence, ranging from verbal abuse to physical assaults directed toward persons at work or on duty’.
Workplace violence can come from customers, co-workers, and strangers and can occur in virtually all professional settings. Understanding this violence is the first step in addressing the issue and keeping your customers and employees safe.
Most companies, especially those that deal directly with the public, focus on keeping their customers safe. Workplace safety for staff, on the other hand, is often a little more problematic. For hotel managers, ensuring your hotel is fully compliant with the latest health and safety laws while also safeguarding workers rights is a considerable job. However, with over 20,000 Americans forced to take days off work due to workplace violence in 2020 alone, the issue is one that all employers need to address.
Four Main Types of Workplace Violence
Type 1 – Criminal Intent
The perpetrator of this type of violence generally won’t have a legitimate relationship with the business or a connection to anyone who works there. Criminal intent is usually associated with crimes like robbery, shoplifting, and trespassing.
An example of this kind of violence would include a person walking into a shop, hotel or restaurant and deciding to rob the cashier or steal items held on the premises. Violence that occurs due to criminal intent is one of the leading causes of workplace homicides.
Type 2 – Client/Customer on Worker
Another common type of workplace violence occurs when a client or customer becomes violent towards an employee. This type of violence often includes verbal abuse and threatening behavior as well as physical assaults. Client or customer violence often occurs when there are disputes over service, products, or money.
This model can also be applied to healthcare settings. For example, when a patient, or one of their family members, becomes aggressive because they believe the treatment they’ve received isn’t good enough, or because they think they have been waiting too long.
Type 3 – Worker on Worker
Worker-on-worker violence often happens when the relationship between co-workers breaks down. This type of violence can be directed towards supervisors, managers or colleagues and can involve threats of violence as well as physical assaults. For example, when an employee becomes physically aggressive with a supervisor because they are denied a promotion or time off.
Type 4 – Personal/Domestic Relationship
The perpetrator of this type of violence often has a personal relationship with an employee at a company but won’t be employed by the business itself. Domestic violence is a common cause of this type of incident. An example would include an estranged partner following an employee into their workplace and assaulting them on the premises.
Factors That Increase the Risk of Workplace Violence
There are a number of risk factors that increase the chances of violent acts occurring in the workplace. Employees may be at increased risk if they:
- Work alone or in isolated parts of a building
- Work with people suffering from mental illness
- Work with people that have substance abuse issues
- Work in a space that serves alcohol
- Work in premises where public access is unrestricted
- Have face-to-face dealings with customers, particularly in a customer service role
- Work in law enforcement or security
- Are responsible for guarding valuable property or money
- Deliver passengers, services, or products
In certain settings, long waiting times, cramped waiting rooms and poor lighting can also increase the risk of violence to workers.
Tips to Prevent Workplace Violence
No one should have to fear for their personal safety when they’re in their work environment. Preventing violent incidents, and improving workplace safety, should therefore be a priority for all employers, regardless of the size of their business or the sector they work in.
Run a Violence Prevention Program
A workplace violence prevention program should include a number of elements including staff training, risk assessment and consultations. All workers on your premises should receive regular training on how to deal with violent or aggressive customers and on what to do if they witness a colleague becoming violent or threatening co-workers.
A violence prevention program for hospitality staff should also include training on how to spot potentially aggressive customers, when to stop serving alcohol, and how to de-escalate a situation.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), publishes a comprehensive list of workplace violence prevention resources. You can find this information, as well as links to training programs and safety regulations, on the OSHA website.
Instigate a Zero-Tolerance Policy to Workplace Violence
Your zero-tolerance policy should apply to all staff, customers, and patients that use the space. Place notices around your work site to make it clear that violence will not be tolerated and act swiftly and decisively when customer or worker violence does occur.
Install Panic Buttons
Issuing staff with panic buttons is an incredibly effective way of reducing workplace violence. Panic buttons allow members of staff to call for help instantly and silently if they feel threatened or experience a violent incident.
When the staff member activates their panic button, their exact location is sent directly to security staff. These security personnel will then be able to assist the person in distress as quickly as possible. Systems that automatically alert 911 services are also available for organizations that need them. Panic buttons are commonly used in the healthcare industry as well as in hospitality and social service settings.
Although eliminating workplace violence incidents altogether may not be possible, investing in training and security should help to reduce incidents of physical violence and ensure all staff feels as safe as possible when they’re at work.
To learn more about violence prevention, and to find out how our panic buttons are already keeping employees safe, contact a member of our team or read more articles on the ROAR blog today. Request a Demo.