Workplace violence is a real danger for many people in New Jersey. It is important for employers to take steps to prevent workplace violence from occurring and protect their employees. Workplace violence includes suicides, assaults, violent threats, robberies, and other related incidents. In some cases, multiple workers can be killed in an act of violence at work. If you are dealing with someone who is making violent threats at your job, you should talk to the attorneys at Swartz Swidler for advice on what to do about the situation.
The most common types of workplace violence
Active shooter incidents are frequently reported and sensationalized by the news media. When these types of incidents are sensationalized, the emphasis is displaced from the most common types of workplace violence and the need for them to be addressed with safety programs.
Certain industries and occupations experience more incidents of workplace violence. Robbery is the most common motive behind workplace homicides. For example, a robber might enter a gas station with a gun and shoot the clerk during the robbery. People who work in public-facing jobs are much likelier to experience incidents of workplace violence.
Workplace assaults are also common in certain fields. For example, nurses and others who work in hospitals or clinics are sometimes targeted by angry or unstable patients or their families. Other occupations that have a higher risk of assaults include police officers, sheriffs, retail workers, and security guards.
Transportation workers are also at risk of fatal injuries when they are involved in accidents. While violence can occur at work between employees, employers’ safety programs should include preventative measures for other types of violence that can happen within the workplace.
Recognizing potential for violence
Workplace violence is something that occurs when someone experiences a triggering condition that leads him or her to take violent action and believe that doing so is the only way out. It also is likelier to occur in an environment that fails to intervene properly or allows violence to occur.
People who perpetrate violence in the workplace normally have one of the following motives:
- Getting revenge for a perceived wrong
- Becoming famous
- Trying to get the world to pay attention to his or her personal problems
- Trying to get killed by the police when they respond
Incidents of workplace violence are almost impossible for employers to predict, making it important for employers to develop strong safety programs and policies. A good program can help employees know what to look for and how to react in a violent situation.
Signs that an employee might become violent
Employees who might become violent tend to exhibit some of the following warning signs:
- Employees who act out anger by physical actions, including slamming doors, throwing objects, stomping, shouting, and others
- Employees who do not take responsibility for their actions and are unable to see the link between them and their consequences
- Employees who do whatever they want no matter how others might be affected
- Employees who speak positively but behave negatively
- Employees who are controlling, inflexible, and rigid
- Employees who engage in addictive behaviors or lie to deal with stress
- Employees who suddenly begin acting in uncharacteristic and extreme ways
- Employees who have poor social skills and becomes fixated on other individuals or ideas
Supervisors who see employees exhibiting any of these types of behavior patterns should document them and talk to the employees about how those behaviors negatively impact their work. They might require the employees to undergo counseling or further training to address them.
Other factors that might come into play include people who are undergoing significant stress and start spiraling down emotionally and mentally over a long period of time. Employees who are spiraling out of control might start trying to intimidate others or being exhibiting antisocial or paranoid behavior. The employees might also be loners and not fit in with the other workers.
Employers have a duty of care to try to keep their employees safe while they are at work. When they fail to do so, they might face negligent hiring lawsuits, third-party claims, workers’ compensation claims, and OSHA violations.
Steps to prevent workplace violence
Workplace violence can happen in any business. Some of the steps employers can take to prevent it from occurring include the following:
- Adopt a zero-tolerance policy for any act of workplace violence
- Get to know the employees to identify behavioral changes
- Train workers and supervisors to report unusual behavior
- Ensure that action is taken when reports of unusual behavior are made
- Establish procedures for penalizing employees who violate the company’s policy against workplace violence
- Swiftly terminate people who engage in violent threats
- Tell employees who are terminated for workplace violence that the employer will call the police if they come back
- Make sure the company is secure
- Have an emergency action plan in place so employees know what to do if a violent incident occurs
- Have an employee assistance program available to help troubled employees
Talk to Swartz Swidler
If you have been a victim of workplace violence, you might want to talk to the experienced attorneys at Swartz Swidler. Call us today at (856) 685-7420.