Workplace Violence Policy – Is yours up to speed?

What types of conduct does your written workplace violence prevention policy define and include? If it is only limited to actual physical violence it will fall short of recent standards. Such standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA — see directive CPL 02-01-052 dated 9/8/11) and ASIS/SHRM’s Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention — American National Standard document both define workplace violence with fairly broad language. In order for your policy to provide some hope of prevention, as well as a reasonable defense in court, the following types of activity and conduct must be addressed by the policy:

– Criminal activity within the workspace
– Customer /client / patient confrontations
– Personal partner abuse/ domestic violence spilling into the workspace
– Aggressive co-worker issues such as abusive emails, verbal threats, hostile intimidation, and any other unacceptable behavior that invokes fear in the workspace
– Bullying and Cyber-bullying

Much of this conduct is subject to assessment of `degree’, especially bullying, but your policy should give clear examples of what the unacceptable conduct could be. Absent written directives forbidding such behavior, often nobody is willing to recognize it as workplace violence related and therefore it goes unreported. This will not only assure its continuation, but will probably be interpreted as acceptance and lead to more drastic, or aggressive, conduct. If it seems like there might be some spillover into other policies governing employee conduct, like into Harassment Prevention Policy, so be it. You still want to address the unacceptable behavior, see that it is reported, and take action to stop it. If abusive or aggressive conduct is addressed by more than one policy, that’s fine.

To be effective the Workplace Violence Policy has to be understood by the workforce and the only method for achieving that is through training. This training has to be done at the employee level for all. Employees actually have to be considered your first line of reporting responsibility. They should learn the behavioral red flags and the reporting requirements expected. Training also has to be done for the supervisors who are going to be your second line of responsibility to investigate the issues. Then the Case Assessment Team should be given even more specific training as to how the policy is to be applied and enforced.

Workplace courtesy and safety should be a simple issue of applying those universal rules of behavior we all should have learned by the time we were 5 years old. It has however become a complicated issue with social and legal consequences for both the perpetrators and the companies/organizations that fail to control them.

Check out our whole Workplace Violence Prevention series of training courses at