Red Flags at Work: Preventing Workplace Violence

Red Flags at Work: Preventing Workplace Violence

An average of 20 workers are killed each week on the job, making homicide the second leading cause of death at the workplace (after motor vehicle accidents). Additionally, an estimated million workers are non-fatally assaulted each year, according to data from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though the vast majority of workplace violence is related to robbery and perpetrated by individuals from outside a business, about nine percent involves co-workers or former employees.

Workplace violence committed by current or former employees has a devastating impact on a business and its employees. While the real and immediate injury to the victim(s) delivers the biggest blow, the business itself may suffer bad publicity and, likely, an expensive lawsuit. Regardless of whether or not workers who were not involved in the incident witnessed the event, many are likely to experience emotional after-effects.

What are the causes of workplace violence?

According to a guide published by the Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry, workplace violence can occur at any business, because the business environment is not the only trigger of brutal incidents. Family stress, substance abuse issues, and an employee’s overall psychological status, can carry into the workplace and provoke an incident of violence. Other situations that can lead to tragedy include an employee developing an unrequited crush on a co-worker, being rejected for a promotion, or feeling they are treated unjustly by a supervisor. In some cases, an individual cannot appropriately handle the resulting feelings of rejection. The pressure to produce and/or fear of layoffs can also trigger violence in an unbalanced employee.

An analysis by USA Today of 224 incidents of workplace violence committed by employees concluded that, in eighty percent of cases, the employee had exhibited clear warning signs of possible violence, which were ignored or minimized by supervisors or co-workers. While some red flags of violence are clear-such as wielding a weapon or making verbal threats-others are less obvious. Experts in the field urge caution when the following behaviors are present –

  • continuous complaints of unjust treatment;
  • inability or unwillingness to be held accountable, as well as the need to place blame upon others;
  • difficulty in accepting criticism;
  • deterioration of job performance;
  • mood swings or personality/behavioral changes; and
  • emotional outbursts

Although workplace violence, unfortunately, cannot be completely eliminated, businesses can take action to lessen the chances that an incident will take place. Supervisors, managers and all other employees, should be made aware of actions and attitudes that can indicate potential violence. Companies need to make it perfectly clear that non-physical precursors to violence-such as bullying, intimidation, aggression, and threats-will not be tolerated. Policies should also encourage employees to report such red flags, with reasonable assurance of their personal safety. Managers and supervisors require training in how to effectively diffuse workplace tensions and deal with confrontations before they turn violent. Employee assistance programs (EAPs) or other counseling services can be helpful in taking these steps.

While people can and do change, many perpetrators of violence have a history of brutality, or of red flags for potential violence. For this reason, background checks, pre-employment screenings, thorough resume reviews, and pre-hire interviews can be beneficial tools in workplace violence prevention, according to information from the International Risk Management Institute. Other warning signs include frequent job changes that are not adequately explained; mysterious holes in an applicant’s work history; demeanor during a pre-hire interview that is unresponsive, uncooperative, or somehow unsettling; and, of course, any history of violent or threatening behavior.

With the right policies and preventive measures, a business can know that it has taken appropriate steps to deter workplace violence and protect their employees to the best of their ability.

Safety Meetings 101: Paying Attention Can Save Your Life

Safety Meetings 101: Paying Attention Can Save Your Life

Most workers roll their eyes at the mention of a safety meeting – but what they may not realize is that these meetings have a greater purpose than just lecturing workers with a “boring” speech. Proper safety training can spell the difference between life and death on the jobsite.

Safety meetings 101

In a safety meeting, the company’s management and safety experts have an opportunity to teach employees how to perform their jobs more safely. This crucial training could prevent countless accidents in the long-run.

Some studies show that 90% of all jobsite accidents are caused by “unsafe acts.” These types of accidents are often the result of a worker not making the safest choices on the job. However, if workers attend all safety meetings and pay attention to the information being presented, they’ll know how to steer clear of unsafe acts and avoid accidents on the jobsite.

Pay attention!

If you’ve been working on a particular jobsite for many years, you may assume you already know everything there is to know about safety in your workplace. As a result, you may tune out during safety meetings and let your mind wander.

However, it is crucial to pay attention in these meetings even if you think you’ve heard it all before. After all, you may just learn something new. For example, you could learn about the latest, cutting-edge protective equipment or a smarter, safer and more effective way to do your job. All workers should pay close attention and take safety meetings seriously because the lessons they learn could help save their own or another worker’s life.

Understanding the risks

Are you still not convinced that safety meetings are necessary? Then you may want to consider the potential costs of having an accident on the jobsite. Here are a few ways a jobsite accident can directly affect you:

  • You could lose your income: If you are seriously injured in a jobsite accident, you may not be able to work. If that’s the case, your paycheck may decrease or disappear altogether. Who will pay the bills if this happens? What if you are the sole breadwinner in your family? You and your family could be financially devastated.
  • You could suffer from chronic pain: If you are injured on the jobsite, you may still be able to work – but you could suffer from severe aches and pains for the rest of your days. Think about how excruciating it would be to work through back aches, knee pain or splitting headaches every day.
  • You could die: In the worst case scenario, a workplace accident could kill you. Think about how your loved ones would feel knowing that you died from an easily preventable accident at work. You could become disabled: Although you may survive a serious jobsite accident, you could become disabled. Imagine spending the rest of your life confined to a wheelchair.
  • You could lose a co-worker: Because we spend so much time with our co-workers, they are often like family to us. How terrible would it be to watch your co-worker die because of a mistake you made on the jobsite? What if you could have prevented his death by stopping him from taking a misstep? Safety training teaches you how to look out not just for yourself but also for your fellow workers.

As you can see, there are many good reasons for safety meetings. Not only could you learn vital new safety methods, but these meetings also give you and your co-workers a chance to talk to your supervisors about any safety or health concerns. So as boring as safety training may seem, listen up and absorb all the information you receive. This information could save your life one day.