Employees often choose to keep their workplace violence concerns private. The unspoken nature of these concerns can mislead employers, giving them a distorted view of the risks facing their workforce and organization – from mental health to productivity and retention.
Workplace violence threats, both real and imagined, affect both sides of the employment equation. As workplace violence incidents rise, companies face increased pressure from state legislatures, OSHA and courts to take proactive measures to provide a secure workplace.
To uncover how employees experience workplace violence threats, Traliant recently surveyed more than 1,000 US employees at companies with more than 100 employees. What we learned about employee perceptions and anxieties can help employers adopt a more informed strategy to address worker concerns.
What survey results reveal
Survey results revealed that almost 1 in 4 have witnessed workplace violence happening to another employee in the last five years. While the majority (70%) of surveyed workers had received training on workplace violence, nearly a third of respondents have not been trained – a big gap employers need to close.
“There is much room for improvement in how employers approach workplace violence prevention,” said Michael Johnson, former US Department of Justice attorney and Traliant Chief Strategy Officer. “Especially as instances of violence in the workplace grow, preventing workplace violence is the responsibility of all organizations, regardless of the industry or work environment.”
Johnson adds, “By prioritizing workplace violence prevention training and taking specific actions to address the realities of today’s employees better, employers can better protect their business and secure a strong position in the workplace of tomorrow.”
A majority of survey respondents (76%) say their employer has a workplace violence plan, but far less (60%) were confident in their employer’s ability to act on the plan in the event of an incident.
California takes the lead in workplace violence prevention
Nearly two million U.S. workers experience workplace violence annually according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In response, states have begun adopting measures that require employers to proactively take steps to prevent workplace violent threats or potentially be held liable for damages in certain situations.
In 2023 California passed a first-of-its-kind workplace violence law in the US that requires employers to address the following by July 1, 2024:
· Implement a workplace violence prevention plan
· Keep a log of violent incidents in the workplace
· Provide annual workplace violence prevention training to employees
While the new California law represents a ground-breaking step in enhancing workplace safety, it takes time for employers to develop a prevention plan according to the state’s guidelines and implement proper training. Starting that process now is key.
“To meet the deadline, California employees need to act now as a compliant plan requires working with different stakeholders, performing a workplace violence hazard assessment, and establishing procedures for violent incident response and investigation as well as for employee compliance,” said Johnson.
Awareness and preparation are key
While California is the first state to enact a workplace violence prevention law, workplace violence can strike anywhere, and no one is immune. Frequent news headlines of workplace violence may explain why an overwhelming majority (90%) of surveyed employees believe other states should adopt similar legislation to California.
It’s recommended that all employers proactively create and communicate plans to prevent workplace violence and provide ongoing training Taking these steps can help prevent the detrimental physical and psychological effects of real or imagined violence against a workforce that often results in higher absenteeism and turnover.
“An effective program should make employees aware of workplace violence prevention as an ongoing initiative, rather than a once-a-year training event,” said Elissa Rossi, Vice President of Compliance Services at Traliant and former Assistant Attorney General of New York. “By incorporating workplace violence prevention into an overall safety and health or compliance program, employers can show their commitment to employees’ wellbeing and the creation of a fair, safe and compliant workplace.”
It’s employers’ legal, ethical, and moral responsibility to mitigate workplace violence. Having a zero-tolerance workplace policy, implementing an anti-violence plan that includes prevention training and practicing for potential scenarios, can help employees overcome their workplace violence fears.