With violence in society a growing problem, the importance of taking measures to prevent workplace violence has become increasingly urgent to businesses that want to protect the safety of their employees.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between the years of 2011 and 2018, a total of 5,746 injuries resulting from workplace violence were reported. Of these, 3,584 were workplace homicides and 2,825 of these homicides were the result of a shooting by another person.

While violence is one of the major causes of death in the workplace, nonfatal cases are more common. Overall, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration estimates there are about 2 million cases of workplace violence a year. The surprisingly high number of incidents vary between verbal and physical abuse to homicides. It is also estimated that about 25 percent of workplace violence goes unreported.

These statistics are a strong reminder that violence in the workplace is more common than we might think, but workplaces can take specific measures to prevent and lessen the impact of violence. When you know how to prevent workplace violence, you can be part of the solution and make your company a safer place for all employees.

1. Complete background checks on new employees.

Workplace violence prevention begins with hiring. Conducting a thorough background check on potential employees (after they acces a job offer) can reveal whether the candidate has a violent past. If something comes up, ask for an explanation and make sure it’s consistent with the report. They that have a recent violence conviction, you may decide to retract the job offer to avoid that kind of behavior in your workplace.

2. Create a policy that prevents harassment.

Harassment is repeated persecution, bullying and/or troubling behavior that intimidates others. It creates an offensive work environment and the behavior often serves as a warning for violence. That’s why creating a policy to prevent harassment is a crucial step in preventing the possibility of violence. This policy should include a set of procedures that addresses any workplace complaints efficiently and privately. While creating this policy, it’s important to involve each level of the facility, including managers, employees, and executives. Keep all individuals informed by distributing the new policy across your organization and take the time to ensure every employee understands it.

3. Create an effective line of communication.

Effective communication is a key factor in preventing workplace violence. If your employees have access to a workplace communication network, it can help them understand, recognize and report the early signs of potential violence, rather than passively sweeping them under the rug in favor of getting back to work. Giving them access to conflict-resolution resources makes them feel more responsible to communicate. Also, providing an open line of communication to management, HR and other key members of your company will help create an environment where employees can make sure their grievances are heard and properly responded to.

4. Training and awareness are key factors in workplace violence prevention.

Take the time to have training sessions about how to respond to a violent incident so your staff knows how to react when it occurs. ALICE Training teaches people what to do when they recognize danger. Being trained properly so that decisive action can be taken quickly gives a team member the confidence needed to respond in a controlled and responsible way during a violent incident.

5. Establish a strict anti-violence policy.

Prevent workplace violence by creating firm policies that empower your team to report violent and harassing behaviors and other signs of danger. This kind of policy eliminates undesirable employee behavior and leaves no room for favoritism – managers must apply swift and consistent punishment no matter who violates the policy. Make sure all employees are aware of the consequences for violating the policy. This firm stance helps to show your company’s commitment to preventing violence.

6. Encourage your employees to accept individual differences.

Personality clashes or leadership style differences exist in every workplace. If left unresolved, these issues could result in job dissatisfaction or depression, and even violence (in the form of verbal abuse, sabotage, or worse). Persistent issues result in high turnover and culture problems or your organization. Help negate conflict by organizing activities to help the tea get to know each other, and acknowledging differences as positive attributes. This could help people see that their individual differences play a vital role in the team’s strengths as a whole.

7. Prevent conflicts from turning into harassment or violence.

Tense situations like employee layoffs or firings can create extreme anger. Sometimes, that anger builds a desire to “get revenge.” You can help prevent these conflicts from turning into violence by immediately alerting staff and building security of the angry departure to prepare them for possible escalation. This allows them to be on the lookout for ex-employees who return without invitation and be more prepared to take action if needed.

8. Manage visitors and provide security monitoring

Monitoring visitors – and managing them when possible – is a smart way to prevent violence in the workplace. Whether security guards are patrolling your facility/parking lot, capturing video surveillance, or overseeing a visitor check-in desk, these are all extra layers of security that can deter someone from performing a violent incident. This is especially important in situations where people work alone or in confined spaces, or provide services involving money or alcohol. Also consider providing after hours escorts for workers in parking lots who become easier targets when alone.

9. Encourage everyone to report any and all violent incidents.

A great way to start preventing workplace violence is to establish trust between you and your employees. Ensure your employees of the confidentiality in which they can report incidents, and assure each of them that no retaliation will be made against anyone reporting acts of violence.

10. Deter robbers with limited assets on hand.

Workplace violence often occurs in conjunction with crimes like robbery and shoplifting. In fact, 85 percent of workplace homicides fall into this category where the criminal has no known relation to the business or its employees. You can reduce the risk of robbery and potential violence by keeping the amount of assets at your facility to a minimum. Use electronic pay systems to reduce cash on hand and install a locked drop safe. It may also help to keep your facility well lit and ask law enforcement officers to visit occasionally. Always be alert and pay attention to customers acting strangely.

11. Identify organizational risk factors that could lead to violence.

What areas or concerns in your organization are potential risk factors that could lead to workplace violence? When combined with the stress of a personal situation employees bring to work, they may become aggressive and lash out. Assess your operation to become aware of these factors like working while understaffed, inadequate security, the perception that violence is tolerated or that victims are unable to properly report incidents, and many others.

12. After an incident or near miss, perform a thorough analysis.

In the event that your workplace does experience a violent situation or is able to prevent one from occurring, follow up with an analysis. Who was affected and what, if any, warning signs were present? Were existing procedures and operations followed and if not, why? Were team members adequately trained? What new procedures and operations would help to improve staff safety and security? Answering these questions can help you modify your existing plans and ensure your business is able to effectively prevent workplace violence.

Confidently Respond to Workplace Violence with ALICE Training

It’s important to take steps to prevent violence in the workplace, but it’s equally as important to prepare your people to respond. ALICE Training provides your organization with the knowledge and training to confidently respond, should a violent incident occur. The ALICE proactive options-based strategies increase survivability during the gap between when a violent incident begins, and the law enforcement arrives.

Hundreds of thousands of individuals in schools, law enforcement, workplaces and places of worship have been trained in ALICE active shooter response tactics. ALICE Training® goes beyond lockdown methods by providing individuals with a new set of skills that will greatly increase their odds of survival during an active shooter situation.

Learn more about ALICE Training’s workplace active shooter and violence prevention training.

Start preventing workplace violence and ensuring your employees’ safety today.