The material in today’s Advisor is adapted from BLR’s 10-Minute HR Trainer session, “Coping with the Aftermath of Workplace Violence.”
Take Care of People First
The first step in the aftermath of workplace violence is to take care of employees.
- Contact families of injured employees, stay in touch, and help them with insurance and workers’ compensation forms.
- Offer condolences to families of workers killed in violent incidents, and attend funeral services.
- Watch for signs of distress among other employees, including:
—Withdrawing from work activity or peers, or appearing numb or emotionless;
—Frequently calling in sick;
—Overworking or working slowly; or
—Having difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or dealing with changes.
- If you see any of these signs, help employees cope by:
—Spending time with your people and making yourself available to them;
—Talking about the incident with employees and answering their questions;
—Encouraging them to share concerns with one another and loved ones;
—Making sure they know about any support groups your organization sponsors and any community resources that are available for employees;
—Referring employees who are having trouble coping to your employee assistance plan or human resources (HR) department for professional counseling; and
—Using the healing power of work to help employees get back a sense of normalcy.
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Assist in the Search for Answers About What Happened and Why
In order to prevent future incidents, it is essential to find out what actually happened and why. Much like a workplace accident investigation, you need to discover what caused the incident and how it was able to unfold in your workplace.
- Interview those who witnessed the incident or know anything about the perpetrator(s) as soon as possible before their memories fade or facts become confused.
- Secure the scene of the incident to preserve any evidence for authorities. Except to help victims, nothing should be touched, removed, or rearranged.
- Cooperate in the investigation into violent incidents conducted by your management and law enforcement authorities, and encourage your employees to tell anything they know as well.
Review Your Organization’s Violence Prevention Program
Review the violence prevention policy with all your employees as soon as possible after the incident.
- Make sure workers are informed of changes made to the program as a result of the incident.
- Conduct violence prevention training to remind employees of procedures and to give them a sense of greater control and power by knowing what to do in an emergency. Emphasize warning signs of potentially violent behavior and how to protect themselves from violent or threatening people and situations.
- Discuss evacuation procedures, signals for warning coworkers of impending violence, etc.
Review Security Procedures
- Review security procedures and equipment (surveillance cameras, silent alarms, etc.). Discuss any changes made as a result of the incident.
- If there was a breach of security that allowed the perpetrator into the workplace (such as doors left open, an employee knew the person and let him in, etc.), this problem needs to be thoroughly discussed and corrected.
—Remind employees about sign-in procedures, visitors’ badges, and other steps designed to prevent workplace violence.
—Emphasize that these rules apply to former employees and friends and family of employees, as well as to strangers.
- Encourage employees to report any threats, strange behavior in an employee, or suspicious activity immediately.
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Work with Management and Employees to Prevent Future Incidents
- Take an active role in the effort to make the workplace safer and prevent violence.
- Encourage employee input concerning security measures and dealing with threats of violence.
- Stress awareness of the potential for workplace violence regularly so that employees remain vigilant.