Workplace violence can happen anywhere, any time – including on a construction site. It can come from a co-worker or a stranger. Workers that are particularly vulnerable are those that exchange money with the public; deliver passengers, goods or services; work alone or in small groups during early morning hours or late at night; or work in high-crime areas. According to an OSHA Fact Sheet, some two million American workers are victims of workplace violence each year.
Workplace violence is any physical assault, threatening behavior or verbal abuse occurring in the work setting. Before people explode, they may give signals that something is wrong. Some of those signals might include:
- Social isolation,
- Frustration, confusion or faulty decision-making,
- Complaints of unfair treatment,
- Excessive lateness or absenteeism,
- Blaming others for mistakes,
- Inappropriate comments about revenge, violence or weapons,
- Disrespect for authority,
- Overreacting to criticism, or
- Anger and hostility.
The best protection employers can offer is to establish a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence against or by their employees. Make sure all employees know and understand the policy and that they understand that all claims will be investigated and, where necessary, remedied.
Nothing can guarantee that an employee will not become a victim of workplace violence. These steps, however, can help reduce the odds:
- Learn how to recognize, avoid or diffuse potentially violent situations by attending personal safety training programs on workplace violence.
- Don’t get drawn into arguments.
- Take verbal threats seriously, but don’t respond to them. Report all threats to your supervisor.
- Report all incidents of bullying and sexual harassment.
- Watch for unauthorized visitors – even those who appear to have legitimate business at your work site or office.
- Report suspicious people or vehicles.
- Don’t give out information about fellow employees.
- Devise a plan such as predetermined code words, so that one employee can tell another about a dangerous customer or visitor without tipping off the suspect.
- Trust your instincts.