Reasons why a company should have a workplace violence policy
This week we are going to look at 3 different perspectives of why we need a workplace violence policy. Over the past few weeks we have had different interpretations and points of view added to both our blogs and our training sessions with various companies. We have also approached it from the angle ‘why bother’, or does it make any difference to the person or organisation?
Some of the feedback that we have had has been quite interesting, i.e. it does not protect the staff or it’s just another expense that can also add to very tight budget. Our approach is slightly different as we help identify if a policy is actually needed or if training is needed. The easiest route to take is to look at your role, the role of the staff and see if there is a risk, and if so well it is you that now has taken the chance.
Every company we have recently worked with in implementing a policy has stated it does work, as it clearly shows the line between abuse and a threat and that it is also ok to walk away if you feel you need to. Plus added direction on lone working also protects all and ensures that everyone plays their part in protecting each other.
Tomorrow we will look at the benefits for the management:
Why do we need a Workplace Violence Policy
Why do we Need a Workplace Violence Policy
If I mention Workplace Violence or a workplace Violence Policy, I bet you think ‘it never happens in our organisation’ or if you have encountered it, you will probably think that you’re covered by the tranche of other policies you have implemented within your business covering bullying, harassment and appropriate behaviour within the workplace. Unfortunately this is not the case and even if you have not had a reported case within your organisation, you do need to take action to appease a problem that you’ve not encountered, or probably have not even thought of.
All the statistics show that Workplace violence is on the increase. However it remains a taboo subject, where many businesses remain in denial or they just have not realised that it does happen and at the moment it is misreported.
Having accepted that you need to cover your organisation, let’s consider what you need to cover yourself.
The subject of workplace violence has been around for a long time, and it has affected people in the workforce from cleaners to bus drivers through to doctors and as many subjects do, this does not discriminate between age, sex or status. Even though you may not have been aware that this problem is growing every day and is gaining speed through the frustrations of daily life and pressures. If you at least have a grasp on what provokes or incites people to be aggressive then you will have a slightly clearer idea of how to deter these problems.
And what happens if you don’t have a policy in place should an incident occur? Well, for starters you will be held accountable and uncomfortable questions will be asked, as to why you didn’t provide a safe system of work and why didn’t you carry out a risk assessment when it was clearly defined by staff that they were concerned or unhappy with certain aspects or areas. This subject has moved on drastically over the past few years and it is becoming more recognised and drawing more attention to it each day, by either lone workers being left without access to help or support to shop assistants being abused by aggressive and arrogant shoppers.
So let’s look at how you can try to reduce the risk within your organisation.
Firstly any organisation that designs a workplace violence policy that is easy to follow and clearly directs all members of staff on what action to take when either dealing with aggressive or potentially violent situations, will immediately reduce their risk.
It has been proven that staff who do not understand what to do, will undoubtedly do what they think is right, which can result in an escalation of the situation to a point of no return instead of a reduction. Therefore, having a policy not only gives staff confidence that management have taken responsibility for their safety, but it will also raise confidence and positive actions for any director or manager responsible. Having a clear understanding of steps to follow after an assault has taken place is very important and a policy can support with steps such as, interviews, inspections and possibly fines.
The first difficulty most run into is, knowing where to start as this policy will cover all sorts of actions and outcomes. Because the workplace refers to the daily chores of the working life, the violence we are discussing is of a lower level and is a small but rapidly growing concern for many people who manage staff in a variety of sectors.
Take a second now to think of everyone that works alongside you or that you have a duty of care for. Have you ever thought “what if” they were abused, threatened or assaulted? Then ask yourself how you would react and also what could/should you do to ensure that this sort of incident wouldn’t happen.
The golden rule is to ensure the policy is personalised to meet the needs of your organisation. It is easy for someone to copy and paste the contents of various internet websites to create a policy, but if it’s not directed towards the specific risks involving your staff within your organisation, it’s honestly not worth the paper that it’s written on as it will not protect you in a court of law or protect your staff against civil action.
Secondly, the policy needs to be a living policy which means that it is updated on a regular basis to ensure that in the event of an incident the same event cannot occur again.
Thirdly, you need to consider whether training or development is required within your organisation to ensure that the policy is implemented properly. Often organisations think that personal safety training is the answer, which is unfortunately exactly what you should not do without the proper risk assessments. Authorising a member of staff to use physical combat skills in an aggressive situation will not only leave your organisation vulnerable to prosecution but leave the path clear for possible civil suits against the staff who used the skills should someone be hurt.
The process to protect your organisation, colleagues and staff is a hard task, but now more than ever it is essential that you take the time to sit and review your organisation and design a workable policy document – even if it is just another policy to you at the moment. I just hope it stays that way!