by Flex HR

Preventing and Dealing with Violence in the Workplace

Workplace violence and safety HR policy book

According to Statistics, 1 out of 7 people don’t feel safe at work

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has recently reported that 1 out of 7 people don’t feel safe at work. This isn’t surprising given the increasing number of violent work incidents over the past couple of years. Unfortunately just last month, locally here in the Atlanta area 2 employees were detained during an active shooter scare, to which the Alpharetta business was evacuated for further police investigations.


HR professionals are witnessing more problematic behavioral types and changing attitudes towards workplace behavior, to which some blame the rise of the #MeToo movement. Organizations have been more focused on inclusivity; however, this could absolutely be indicative of future workplace violent acts.

According to The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), workplace violence is “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide.” OSHA also states that there are about 2 million reported cases of workplace violence every year.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) breaks workplace violence into the following four categories:

  1. Criminal Intent 

    The incident occurs on the company’s property, but the perpetrator has no connection to the company

  2. Customer/Client 

    The perpetrator has a business reason for having contact with employees and becomes violent during or after that business contact

  3. Worker-on-Worker 

    A current or former employee perpetrates violence against coworkers

  4. Personal Relationship 

    The perpetrator has a relationship with the employee outside of work but has no connection to the business

Non-PEO Professional hr consultants

It’s crucial for companies to make their employees feel safe on the job. This starts with the responsibilities of HR to identify their staff starting with the proper candidate screenings, including background checks, and getting to know workers on a more personal level to see the warning signs. It’s then necessary to train first level managers to spot concerning employees and bring those concerns to HR or senior management. Establishing a zero-tolerance policy is the first step in outlining a workplace violence protection program. The Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014 — more popularly called the “Guns Everywhere Bill” — clarified the rights of employers to ban guns on their property. Under the law, employers can prohibit the possession of firearms in company buildings and company-owned parking lots “as long as the employer is the property owner or has legal control of the property.” If owners want protection inside their facilities it’s highly recommended that a written policy authorizing an employee to carry a weapon be added upon the advanced written approval of the CEO or Owner.

Whether these rules are composed as a part of the company handbook or as its own separate policy, creating a prevention plan, identifying and defining workplace violence, recognizing warning signs, establishing an emergency response plan, and implementing a response team must be documented. Thinking outside the box, such as keeping a simple doorstop near the front door, can readily be put in place to stop intruders from entering your workplace. These actions, communication and education must start from the top down, where management provides hands-on training and safety instruction to ensure all employees know the proper protocol given a dangerous emergency situation.

At Flex HR, our HR consulting staff are ready to help address any and all of your safety needs. Feel free to contact us anytime to discuss options that are right for your firm.