Recognizing Behavior that may Lead to Workplace Violence

By Mary E. Russo, CSP, ARM  |  May 31, 2016

Reported cases of workplace violence continue to rise. All businesses should assess this issue and have a plan to address it. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 13,827 workplace homicides from 1992 to 2010. And according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ most recent National Crime Victimization Survey, the estimated number of nonfatal violent crimes occurring in 2009 against persons 16 or older while at work was 572,000. Unfortunately, those alarming statistics are likely to increase, and many businesses don’t have a proactive plan to prevent or address such incidents.

Managers and employees need training on how to recognize early stages of behavior that may lead to workplace violence. They should be aware of changes in behavior that include:

  • excessive tardiness or absences
  • reduced productivity
  • strained workplace relationships
  • changes in health or hygiene
  • fascination with weapons
  • substance abuse
  • excuses and blaming
  • depression

Knowing workers' and identifying changes in their behavior help businesses provide early intervention. Establishing reporting procedures for employees and supervisors also helps with early detection.

Several other techniques have proven successful in screening employees for potential violence and establishing standards of behavior. They include conducting background checks and, when hiring new employees, reviewing information to determine if the employee has a history of violence or threats. Businesses should adopt zero-tolerance policies for any type of violence, including verbal abuse or harassment. You must address violent behavior immediately with disciplinary consequences, possibly including termination.

The zero-tolerance policy should be explained during employee orientation, in the employee handbook, and through ongoing training. It’s also important to create a process for reporting and monitoring employees who display dangerous or suspect behaviors. That includes monitoring e-mails, phone calls, and other activities where appropriate. When an employee is terminated, make sure that keys and security badges are surrendered and that computer system access is blocked immediately.

Businesses should assess their risk, develop a plan, provide ongoing training, practice their plan, and determine if additional insurance is appropriate. The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees publishes a guidebook, Preventing Workplace Violence: A Union Representatives Guidebook, and dedicates a chapter to workplace violence prevention tips.

Workplace violence is just one of the topics covered in scores of news and technical reports that Verisk – insurance solutions’ Engineering and Safety Service (E&S) recently sent to subscribers. We offer a wide variety of risk control information, with topics vital to our loss control audience. Our experts provide reports and technical services to subscribers on fire protection, workers' compensation, industrial hygiene, commercial vehicles, product liability, general liability, and other topics. You can distribute many E&S reports to policyholders to help educate them on sound risk control. For more information about E&S, click here or download our brochure.

Mary E. Russo

Mary E. Russo, CSP, ARM is a liability manager for Engineering and Safety Service at Verisk – insurance solutions.