Workplace violence is on the rise in the United States. And while most organizations rightly prioritize the safety of their employees, a violent act can affect all facets of a business – and possibly even cripple it.

Some of the negative impacts include:

  • Injuries and death: In 2016, workplace violence comprised 17% of work-related fatalities, a 1% increase from 2014, according to the National Safety Council.
  • Corporate liability: Lower & Associates notes the direct losses related to medical bills, workers’ compensation and legal fees. A negligence lawsuit, for example, can cost a business up to $2 million.
  • Reputational damage: Losses attributed to diminished productivity, low morale and negative publicity can all damage a company’s reputation.
  • Repairs and upgrades: The annual comprehensive cost to businesses, including estimated losses, is now $130 billion – compared to $36 billion in 1995, according to Lower & Associates. This amount includes items such as office renovations, new equipment and improved security.

The Critical Role of Reporting

Millions of workplace violence incidents are reported annually – with many more going unreported.

In a recent AlertFind webinar, workplace interactions expert David Smith stressed the importance of prevention. Smith said a critical step in proactive workplace violence resolution is establishing a threat management team that includes in-house officers and employees.

This team learns to recognize violent signs and be the hub for prevention, reporting, intervention and response. They will improve your organization’s safety and provide accurate, timely reporting.

“Becoming violent is a process and that involves change over time,” Smith said. “By allowing individuals or organizations to understand what that change looks like over time, they can intervene at earlier stages before hands are put on anyone.”

The Urgent Need for Workplace Violence Prevention Programs

People commit violence for various reasons – like revenge, robbery or ideology – with or without a component of mental illness. While there is no way to predict an attack, you can learn to spot behaviors in employees that might signal future violence.

The old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is certainly applicable for all employers, which is why creating threat management teams is essential to ensuring the safety of an organization.

“The threat management team is one of the most important elements of any prevention plan,” Smith said. This team will be responsible for fielding concerns and reporting employees who are demonstrating hostile behavior, severe changes in psychological functioning, substance abuse, and other warning and danger signs established in the three stages of workplace violence.

Recommended Threat Management Team Members

“We recommend having team members from different areas of expertise in the organization,” Smith said. “In the center is the threat management team. They oversee the program and make sure that the different departments are addressing issues. Reporting issues is very, very important in terms of becoming a deterrent.”

The threat management team should include representatives from:

  • Human resources
  • Legal
  • Safety/security
  • Risk management
  • Employee Assistance Program
  • Communications
  • Executive management
  • Psychologist/medical
  • Ad hoc members

Depending on the size and scope of your organization, the assignments may need to be flexible; for example, it’s safe to assume that many small businesses’ human resources and legal offices will already act as de facto risk management departments. Customize your team with a pragmatic approach.

To learn more about proactively identifying and addressing issues from workplace interactions expert Dave Smith, watch our new webinar, “Preventing Workplace Violence: 3 Actions To Take Now.”

Watch the Webinar Now