A mark of feeling safe in your work environment is that you rarely think about safety. A sense of safety and wellness is the ultimate goal for all workplaces and this can only be truly achieved when safety and violence prevention is addressed openly in the workplace. As much as believing that the chances of a violent episode occurring in your workplace are slim to none, indifference can leave you vulnerable and unprepared for an emergency situation.
Just last Wednesday in North York, Ontario, employees of a Toronto-based HR company, were victims of this kind of violent episode when an employee stabbed four people in the office with a weapon while in the process of being terminated from the company. The victims were sent to the hospital with varying degrees of injuries and other employees subdued the aggressor until the authorities arrived.
The perpetrator was described by his coworkers and neighbours as a mild, friendly, and dedicated family man, making this violent outbreak even more unexpected and upsetting. How are employers expected to keep their work environment safe with such a lack of warning signs?
As much as you cannot be prepared for every possible emergency scenario, employers can put measures and tools in place to be prepared for violence in the workplace:
Workplace Violence Prevention Training: Ultimately, you cannot have a productive, high-functioning work environment when employees worry about their own safety, so organizing violence prevention training can arm employees with tools and knowledge in preparation for the possibility of a workplace emergency situation. Training also brings the topic into the open, where employees can voice concerns and your organization can engage in dialogue and develop mutual expectations understanding about violence in the workplace.
Workplace Violence Protocol: It’s important that organizations give their employees a clear and concise protocol to follow when an emergency situation arises. Without such a protocol in place, some experts are saying this could be considered as negligent as not having fire alarms. Some organizations are adopting easy-to-remember phrases such as: Run, Hide, and (as a last resort) Defend.
Education from your HR department: Your HR department is equipped with helpful information and educational resources for your employees to take advantage of. Open the lines of communication with your personnel and HR to ensure that people have access to the information they want and need.
Awareness of possible crisis situations: Educate yourself about potentially triggering situations, such as termination, review meetings, conflict meetings, etc. and be sure that you are prepared and ready to respond to an emergency situation.
And finally, while it is vital to understand what reactive measures are appropriate responses to violence, being as proactive as possible in your workplace by taking note of changes and cues will keep everyone safer.
Know your People: While people often are able separate their work and personal life, make sure you take care to notice of any changes in performance or behaviour in your employees. Experts generally recognize that workplace violence occurs when troubled employees encounter troubling situations, so remain aware of cues that one of your employees is not doing well, and could be predisposed to a violent outbreak. Take care to treat any concerns or potential threats as serious and follow-up appropriately.
Talking about workplace safety may not be a pleasant topic to discuss in your organization, as everyone wants to believe that no one in his or her vicinity would be capable of an episode of violence. However, being as prepared as you can be for the unexpected will keep as many people safe as possible. And this could mean accessing resources such as your in-house security, local authorities, and, your Employee Assistance Plan, to help develop and support your workplace violence prevention plan, training and protocols.
Has your organization implemented workplace violence prevention training or protocol? Would you know what to do in case of an emergency?