Preventing Violence:

Planning and Strategic Issues:

Planning Principles:

As with most other risks, prevention of workplace violence begins with planning. However, it is easier to persuade managers to focus on the problem after a violent act has taken place than it is to get them to act before anything has happened. Even if the decision to plan in advance is more difficult to make, it is also more logical. Any organization, large or small, will be far better able to spot potential dangers and alleviate them before violence develops, and will be able to manage a crisis better should one occur, if its executives have considered the issue beforehand and have prepared policies, practices, and structures to deal with it.

In forming an effective workplace violence strategy, important principles include:

  • There must be support from the top. If a company’s senior executives are not truly committed to a preventive program, it is unlikely to be effectively implemented.
  • There is no one-size-fits-all strategy.
  • Effective plans may share a number of features, but a good plan must be tailored to the needs, resources, and circumstances of a particular employer and a particular work force.
  • A plan should be proactive, not reactive.
  • A plan should take into account the workplace culture; work atmosphere, relationships, traditional management styles, etc. If there are elements in that culture that appear to foster toxic climate – tolerance of bullying or intimidation; lack of trust among workers, between workers and management; high levels of stress, frustration and anger; poor communication; inconsistent discipline; and erratic enforcement of company policies – these should be called to the attention of top executives for remedial action.
  • Planning for and responding to workplace violence calls for expertise from a number of perspectives. A workplace violence prevention plan will be most effective if it is based on a multidisciplinary team approach.
  • Managers should take an active role in communicating the workplace violence policy to employees. They must be alert to warning signs, the violence prevention plan and response, and must seek advice and assistance when there are indications of a problem.
  • Practice your plan! No matter how thorough or well-conceived, preparation won’t do any good if an emergency happens and no one remembers or carries out what was planned.
  • Training exercises must include senior executives who will be making decisions in a real incident. Exercises must be followed by careful, clear-eyed evaluation and changes to fi x whatever weaknesses have been revealed.
  • Reevaluate, rethink, and revise. Policies and practices should not be set in concrete.
  • Personnel, work environments, business conditions, and society all change and evolve. A prevention program must change and evolve with them.

The components of a workplace violence prevention program can include:

  • A statement of the employer’s “No Threats and Violence” policy and complementary policies such as those regulating harassment and drug and alcohol use.
  • A physical security survey and assessment of premises.
  • Procedures for addressing threats and threatening behavior.
  • Designation and training of an incident response team.

Access to outside resources, such as threat assessment professionals.

  • Training of different management and employee groups.
  • Crisis response measures.
  • Consistent enforcement of behavioral standards, including effective disciplinary procedures.