BY SVIATLANA LIASHCHYNA
According to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), nearly two million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year. There are currently no federal laws which establish a duty for employers to prevent workplace violence against employees; however, employers – including law firms - have a duty to provide a safe working environment under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act.
Statistics show that about 43% of corporate executives believe that workplace violence is not an issue; an even higher percentage believes that it shouldn’t impact their budget.
Despite these numbers and the lack of federal law, employers should be aware of the risks of workplace violence and how they can work to mitigate those risks. These risks include:
Management commitment is imperative for any program to be effective, and the first steps to preventing workplace violence include setting the tone at the top of your organization. It is recommended that you create a zero-tolerance internal policy for workplace violence, including a prohibition on retaliation against any employees who report violence or its precursors. Reiterate your firm’s commitment to providing a violence-free workplace during periodic employee meetings and develop a system of accountability for implementing a violence prevention program (designate specific employees responsible for the program implementation).
Make sure that you solicit and pay attention to employee feedback regarding potential vulnerabilities and share information on steps taken to ensure office safety. Conduct a thorough security analysis of your worksite. Ensure that you have good visibility and lightning throughout the worksite and install security devices such as panic buttons, surveillance cameras, and alarm systems. Use keycards to control access to work areas.
Safety and Health Training for Employees and Management
Educate your management team and front-line employees on how to detect violent or unsafe activities and provide them with ways to report any suspected, potential, or actual threats to safety. Ensure that the escalation process is clear, reliable, confidential, and trusted. Retain these training records for audit purposes.
Recordkeeping and Workplace Violence Prevention Program Evaluation
Ensure that all reports are thoroughly investigated and documented. Following any incidents, hold a roundtable meeting with your management team to ensure that your policies were followed and to identify any potential gaps.
Employment and Hiring
Ensure that your firm’s employment and hiring policies include clear guidelines on how to handle employment references of known violent tendencies and background checks which include violent crimes.
Although programs like the one listed above may seem like an unnecessary expense to face an unlikely occurrence, employers should take the time to weigh the risks. Protecting your worksite and your employees is an extension of protecting your company and your product.
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