Approximately 1.7 million workers fall victim to violence in the workplace each year, and "homicide is the leading cause of injury death for women in the workplace," reports the Center for Disease Control. Employers should analyze the risk of violence in the workplace by evaluating past incidents, reviewing interactions with the public and high-intensity situations, and obtaining employee input. Develop a policy and procedure for dealing with violence in the workplace, and review and update the procedure on a regular basis.
Dealing With a Violent Individual
Provide training to teach employees how to defuse volatile situations, and list some of the key concepts in the procedures manual. For example, employees should remain calm, and attempt to keep a distance of at least 3 to 6 feet from the violent individual whenever possible. Employ stalling tactics by keeping the individual talking, acknowledging his feelings and listen without interrupting or challenging. If possible, convince the individual to move outside or to a safer location, while creating possibilities for your own escape.
Calling the authorities in the presence of a violent or unstable individual could escalate the situation and potentially spur the individual into action. Instead, try to signal to a co-worker to contact security or the police. Depending on the nature of the business and work environment, the procedure manual may include details for code words to alert co-workers to a security risk or emergency situation within the building. If the workplace has panic buttons, unobtrusively pressing the button is a silent way to obtain help. The procedure manual should list the panic button locations as well as any additional security options. Employees should know their exact location -- for example, "Room 251 on the second floor, west side of the building" -- so that authorities can be quickly directed to the scene.
Exits and Escape Routes
Set out the procedures for evacuation, exit and escape routes from the building, and meeting points for staff. Familiarize staff with the procedure on a regular basis and conduct drills as necessary. Provide employees with more than one exit route from the building, in case one is blocked, and provide signage to help employees identify the exit route in a chaotic emergency situation. Document procedures when escape is not possible, such as locking the office door and getting underneath the desk.
The procedure manual should detail the policy for accounting for all employees if the building has been evacuated. Assign specific roles to certain employees, and publicize the information so that everyone knows who to report to and what action will be taken if co-workers are missing. Clearly define management roles and responsibilities and provide resources and contact information for additional services -- such as the employee assistance program -- to help employees manage the stressful situation.