Just as with any other hazard to health, the risk of harm from violence can be controlled and the risks of serious injury minimised. What works best will depend on the nature of the risk(s) being faced.
What is essential?
Management commitment to minimise the risks and employee cooperation are both complimentary and essential components of any workplace violence programme. Collaboration is the key!
A successful violence prevention programme will be one where management have:
1. Acknowledged the risks and are genuinely committed to minimising them.
2. Supplemented the organisation’s Health and Safety Policy with a specific Policy on Violence.
3. Declared an intention to minimise the risks and publicly expressed resolve and determination to protect the safety of staff and clients with equal commitment.
4. Strictly prohibited all kinds of violence and classified bullying and acts of harassment as gross misconduct that can and do result in immediate dismissal.
5. Published the Policy and ensured a continuing high level of awareness of the contents.
6. Designated one Senior Manager as the ‘Person Responsible’ for the adequacy of the safety arrangements.
7. Adopted a ‘Committee Approach’ to manage risk reduction, electing members to form the Committee from a cross section of the workforce, including, in particular, at least one representative from the employee group identified as being at highest risk.
8. Provided for Committee members to meet often and regularly to oversee the implementation of the safety strategy, to monitor risk and evaluate the performance effectiveness of the protective measures being relied on – and make improvements where needed.
9. Clearly assigned responsibility for each aspect of the Violence Prevention Programme.
10. Delineated a direct line of responsibility (accountability) for managers, supervisors and employees.
11. Introduced an effective pre-employment screening scheme that looks into potential employees’ background, attitudes, and temperament under pressure, so as to make sure that new employees have the right attributes and reduce the chance of employing the wrong kind of person for the job.
12. Carried out a formal Risk Assessment for violence and accurately assessed the nature, frequency and contributory factors of the problems being encountered.
13. Consulted with ‘front line’ employees and line managers in a way that encouraged truthful input on the scale and severity of the problems being encountered (including a clear picture of the extent of correlated negative consequences – anxiety, loss of motivation, absenteeism and increasingly frequent thoughts of quitting the job).
14. Established base line “performance indicators” (e.g. staff turnover, absenteeism, time off sick, productivity, complaints) and legal costs.
15. Set clear targets (e.g. To reduce the number and severity of physical attacks on staff. )
16. Taken basic violence prevention measures, like installing access controls, ensuring a clean, tidy, well ventilated, low noise level working environment, safe working procedures and work practices and realistic work demands.
17. Ensured that access to a quick and effective mechanism for resolving disputes/ differences and complaints is readily available for employees and members of the public.
18. Been prepared to make changes to environmental features of the workplace and working practices that have been contributing to the vulnerability of staff and likelihood of physical violence.
19. Provided suitable advice and instructions to staff about how to behave in response to aggression and how to proceed in the event of imminent danger of physical violence.
20. Implemented an information gathering ‘Reporting System’ and clarified what kinds of incidents and concerns need to be formally reported, how and who to.
21. Ensured that no reprisals are taken against an employee who reports or complains about inadequacies in the arrangements to protect against workplace violence.
22. Genuinely invite and welcome information and reports of concerns and handle the information reported in a grateful, sensitive, considerate, discreet and responsible way – thereby encouraging continued reporting.
23. Prioritised organising and skill training the workforce to develop safer working practice over investment in “technology”.
24. Scheduled and carry out regular and frequent ‘performance appraisal’ of the safety measures – including staff attitudes and opinions.
25. Established close liaison with law enforcement representatives and others who can help identify ways to prevent and mitigate violence in the workplace . (Local Police Crime Prevention Officers, Local Authority Crime Reduction Partnerships, Security / Safety Consultants etc.)
26. Kept the violence prevention programme ‘alive’ with information on progress and fresh initiatives that maintain high levels of awareness, interest and commitment.
27. Ensured each member of the workforce is aware of the risks to their health and updated on any increase in the threat level.
28. Ensured every employee knows their rights (and the rights of others) and fully understands their duty obligations and the legal expectations of them as ‘duty holders’.
29. Regularly check and make sure that every employee is competent to perform the particular role they are deputed to play in minimising the risks (including foreseeing danger in their work routine, reporting concerns, recognising when a threat is present, moderating their own behaviour and supporting colleagues accordingly).
30. Established an ‘early intervention’ work paradigm that minimises the occurrence of events that might lead to, or provoke physical violence.
31. Put efficient procedures in place for passing on information about people known for violent behaviour, so that service delivery is structured in a way that limits the potential for harm occurring.
32. Provided workable ‘crisis’ procedures and ensured that sufficient numbers of suitably qualified staff are always employed to carry them out safely and effectively.
33. Ensured that ‘Crisis Rehearsal’ is regularly practised (at least as often as Fire Drill!)
34. Made sure everyone knows what to do, where to go and how to call for assistance if violence seems likely, or it erupts; and every employee feels confident that the support summoned will arrive quickly and manage the problem efficiently.
35. Ensured lessons are learned from incidents that take place (via structured debriefing of the staff involved) and remedial action is taken promptly to prevent a repetition.
36. Made available a comprehensive programme of medical and psychological counselling for employees experiencing or witnessing assaults and other violent incidents.
37. Installed a mechanism for independent (i.e. external) mediation for unresolved workplace disputes and complaints.
38. Nominated an independent agency as a first port of call for ‘whistleblowers’.
39. Published a ‘Code of Conduct’ for staff which defines expectations in detail and specifies that violent conduct can be construed as gross misconduct which can result in immediate dismissal.