When I think about violence in the workplace, the loss of life jumps to the front of my mind given what seems to be a weekly (if not daily) breaking news story. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 500 workplace homicides associated with workplace violence in 2016.

However, as tragic as it is, workplace violence goes well beyond loss of life. The Bureau indicates 16,890 workers in the private industry experienced trauma from nonfatal workplace violence incidents in 2016, but this number pales in comparison to the estimate from OSHA of two million workers annually being impacted by trauma.

A common definition of workplace violence is violence or the threat of violence against workers. It can occur anytime—even outside of the workplace. It can be a general threat, verbal or physical abuse, or end in homicide.

Many employers still think violence will not happen in their organizations, or only think of specific incidents like active shooter violence. More attention needs to be focused on the everyday violence that occurs but does not make headlines. These events create significant hazards for both employees and the organization, leading to lack of focus, lower moral, decreased productivity, emotional trauma, physical illness, increased health care costs and rising worker compensation costs.

What can employers do? First, consider more than active shooter events and conduct an all-hazards assessment for organizational vulnerabilities and strengths.

Review and enhance violence prevention policies and make sure employees are aware of them. Emphasize the creation of a positive work environment during policy promotion, which starts with your leadership.

Train, train, train. Understanding what signs to watch for, how to report possible workplace violence and how to investigate claims of violence will enhance the overall workforce culture and prepare your people on how best to respond. Consider taking the proactive step of offering de-escalation training by gauging your organizational needs.

Use the Manager Consultation benefit of your employee assistance program for consultation and guidance.

Finally, because workplace violence can happen at any time and anywhere, plan your crisis communication needs in the event tragedy does occur.

At FEI, we continue to see opportunities for employers to enhance their employee and organizational resilience while also addressing violence in the workplace.

Need assistance? Contact us today.