• Confirmation from the person visited that
the visitor is expected; and
• Requirements that visitors be escorted in
As a general matter, employees and visitors should be
informed in advance of applicable policies and procedures.
DEVELOPING A WORKPLACE
VIOLENCE PREVENTION PROGRAM
The preceding sections outline the legal and regulatory
framework and constraints for developing a workplace
violence prevention program. This section will discuss the
elements of such a program and identify opportunities for
those with conflict management expertise to participate
in development and implementation of such programs.
The first element is a Workplace Violence Policy Statement. This document should define what is considered
unacceptable behavior in the workplace by employees,
customers and other visitors, including a prohibition on
violence, threats, intimidation, stalking, bullying, weapons
possession and other types of behavior that can lead to
violence. Such policies can also inform employees and
others of the consequences of policy violations. Unfortunately, the wording of many policies may be perceived
by employees as formal, legalistic, and harsh. Conflict
management practitioners can help make policies more
effective by ensuring that the policy is phrased or positioned in a way most likely to be heard and complied with,
perhaps by describing prohibited conduct and suggesting
more constructive alternatives.
The second step in a Workplace Violence Prevention
program is the establishment of a threat assessment
team. Typically, such a team might include representatives from Legal, HR, Facilities and Compliance. However,
threats to be identified include not only specific physical
characteristics of the workplace that might lead to the
threat of violence, such as the presence of money, drugs
or other valuables that might attract would-be thieves.
(These are present in several of the types of workplaces
that OSHA has identified as particularly vulnerable, such
as taxi drivers and late night retail establishments and
for which it has published specific guides.) Other physi-
cal risk factors include employees working in isolation,
especially in the field. A conflict management specialist
might be valuable on such a team to help identify types
of workplaces or individual employee behavior or cir-
cumstances that might indicate the presence of other
risks. For example, workplaces in the healthcare or social
services fields typically have patients or clients suffer-
ing from various kinds of stress, often with distressed or
agitated family members. For this reason, OSHA has also
published specific guides for such workplaces. As to indi-
vidual circumstances and behaviors that might be risk
factors, the USDA Handbook on Workplace Violence and
Prevention ( http://www.dm.usda.gov/workplace.pdf),
identifies the following:
• Intimidating, harassing, bullying, belligerent, or
other inappropriate and aggressive behavior.
• Numerous conflicts with customers, co-workers, or supervisors.
• Bringing a weapon to the workplace (unless
necessary for the job), making inappropriate
references to guns, or making idle threats
about using a weapon to harm someone.
• Statements showing fascination with incidents
of workplace violence, statements indicating
approval of the use of violence to resolve a
problem, or statements indicating identification
with perpetrators of workplace homicides.
• Statements indicating desperation (over family,
financial, and other personal problems) to the
point of contemplating suicide.
• Direct or veiled threats of harm.
• Substance abuse.
• Extreme changes in normal behaviors.
• Hostile language or threats against a person or
a group based on race, sex, religion, disability,
ethnic background, or sexual orientation.
Once the threat assessment team is convened, the
next steps are to conduct the threat assessment and
identify and implement appropriate hazard control and
prevention. Recommendations might include access
control for employees and visitors, audio and video surveillance, better lighting or other precautions for parking
lots and other isolated locations, buddy systems, evacuation plans, and specific procedures applicable to risks to
victims of domestic violence and others presented by
their presence in the workplace.
As to the last issue, an FBI publication entitled “
Workplace Violence; Issues in Response” ( http://www.fbi.gov/
Conflict management practitioners can help make
policies more effective by ensuring that the policy
is phrased or positioned in a way most likely to be
heard and complied with.