Why Workplace Violence Training Is More Important Than Ever

Workplace violence training is no less relevant in the age of increased work-from-home participation. Now is a good time to ensure programs are up to date.

An employee looks sad.

Are workers at risk of violence? Present conditions may be creating new dangers.

Violence in the workplace is a risk worth preparing for with carefully designed training programs. Giving your employees resources and knowledge that can keep them safe in a violent incident is an essential part of a more general health and safety program. This fact remains true even as COVID-19 has changed workplace dynamics. While many employees who were previously based in offices are now working from home, they are still at risk of suffering violence. Now is a good time to ensure your organization has a comprehensive and effective violence prevention training program that applies to nontraditional work arrangements.

Workplace Violence Training: The Basics

As the Occupational Safety and Health Administration points out, the official definition of workplace violence is more broad than you may expect. For example, threatening, harassing and intimidating behaviors fall under the umbrella of violent actions. The potential perpetrators and victims of these attacks include anyone and everyone associated with a company, from employees to customers and visitors. Unfortunately, violent incidents are very common in the workplace – intentional harm of one person by another is the third-leading cause of fatal workplace injuries.

OSHA recommends all workplaces have zero-tolerance policies in place regarding violent actions. Ensuring dangerous activities never get started at all is the best way to prevent them from escalating to someone being seriously harmed. These policies should be accompanied by training programs. OSHA does not lay out a specific delivery method for workplace violence training. The prevention plan can stand alone or be part of an overarching effort to promote employee safety, health and well-being coordinated by your company’s human resources department.

Workplace Violence Risks in the COVID Era

Unfortunately, the disruption to normal work systems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has not lessened the risk of violence. In fact, some kinds of danger have increased significantly. The risks of a group of employees interacting with colleagues and customers in a standard office or other facility have been replaced by new tensions and patterns. This means programs designed to keep staff members safe — and the training materials that come along — remain relevant and urgent priorities.

The following are a few of the specific threats that have emerged in recent months, as highlighted by the Society for Human Resource Management. These disturbing patterns demonstrate the need for constant attentiveness, even when the workplace is far from its pre-pandemic normal.

Increased Danger of Domestic Violence

When workers’ jobs switch abruptly from in-office work to remote employment, the change in environment can cause new threats to emerge. For instance, the combination of tension from the disaster and more proximity between people who cohabitate can create dangerous circumstances. Vigilance Risk Solutions’ Ignacio Zamora Jr. told SHRM that in the wake of natural disasters, people have historically suffered increased rates of abuse from their domestic partners. Leaders should be sure to support their employees who may be suffering from domestic violence, and supervisor training could help them handle such situations affecting people on their teams safely and responsibly.

An employee on a black background looks sad.Workers can suffer from violence even among social distancing.

Risk from Customers Regarding New Rules

Social distancing and related regulations can be a source of tension in the workplace, and these factors may lead to violence on the part of people who refuse to follow the rules. SHRM pointed out that there have been frequent media reports regarding customers directing threats at workers or even physically assaulting them when asked to wear masks or practice social distancing. Employees who serve on the front lines working with the public should be aware of the safest ways to avoid harm when situations threaten to escalate, and their supervisors should also have enough training to back them up.

Increased Stresses and Related Risks

Sometimes, violent confrontations occur between employees even when times are good, with factors such as mental illness causing issues to intensify. With the added tension and uncertainty associated with current working conditions, workers who still have to share in-person space may be in increased danger. SHRM indicated that human resources professionals must learn to become increasingly adept at spotting risk factors. Some of the same factors that can cause confrontations between customers and workers may lead to conflict within offices – namely, people not taking the pandemic seriously can threaten others by violating social distancing protocols. This lack of respect for the rules is a form of escalating violent conduct worth guarding against.

Modern Workplace Violence Training Methods

As with all types of employee education, your company’s violence prevention courses will have to be distributed online in the months ahead – now is simply not the time to assemble a group of people for an in-person training seminar. Fortunately, the training content sector has been moving in this digital-first direction for years, and you can find a variety of effective interactive video-based training modules to meet your needs and build a comprehensive anti-violence program.

Courses around workplace violence can cover a variety of sub-topics. For instance, some courses are about detecting warning signs of potential threats, while others are about specific incident types such as bullying. Still others will break down responsibilities by role so that, for example, supervisors will be able to support team members facing danger.

Due to the fact that preventing workplace violence is always relevant and will not cease to be so when conditions change again, there is no downside in revamping and improving a training program now. If your company does not have support structures in place to assist employees at risk, or zero-tolerance policies to make the company stance on violence clear, now is also a good time to implement these elements. A safe workplace is a happy and productive one.

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