Workplace violence has become a pervasive problem for America’s workforce, regardless of the industry. In fact, workplace violence is the third-leading cause of death among many professions.

Companies are using technology and physical safety measures to reverse this trend. But all too often, they’re overlooking their most important asset—their people. Employees are extremely important when it comes to helping identify and report small concerns that leadership can then address before a situation escalates.

But first, it’s important to understand what constitutes workplace violence. According to the USDA Handbook on Workplace Violence, Prevention and Response, workplace violence describes any act of violence against people or property. This includes threats, intimidation, harassment and any other inappropriate or disruptive behavior that causes fear for personal safety in the workplace.

To create a safer, healthier and more productive workplace culture, your primary safeguard is to train employees to identify and report suspicious behavior. To accomplish this, one of the most effective tactics is the rule “if you see something, say something.”

Ongoing training also helps employees identify institutional, environmental and policy-based factors that contribute to workplace violence. A professional threat assessment can help alleviate issues before they escalate.

When identifying potentially dangerous situations, team members and leaders should look for the following:

  • History of violence
  • Threatening behavior
  • Intimidating behavior
  • Increased personal stress
  • Negative personality characteristics
  • Marked change in mood or behavior
  • Socially isolated behavior
  • Abuse of drugs or alcohol

If you witness any of these warning signs, report your observations to your HR department, supervisor or safety or security team. Leaving an observation unreported may lead to a potentially dangerous and life-threatening situation.

To start the conversation on workplace violence prevention, share your policies with your team. You can also seek help from your employee assistance program (EAP) or consult FEI on violence prevention programming and training.