The Role of Employers In Workplace Violence, Capstone Project Example

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Capstone Project

Abstract

Workplace violence is a public concern that involves employees, employers and clients of a business establishment, both mobile and immobile. This is referred to as any occurrence of hostility or violence which may result to physical injuries and damage. During worst scenarios, it can cause death to the victims and even to the suspect. Workplace violence can be classified as violence due to strangers, violence due to clients, violence due to co-workers and violence due to personal relationships. These upheavals are influenced by various factors and can be prevented by appropriate policies and measures provided by the employer of the company at risk.

The objectives of this paper include the delivery of substantial information from the existing reports of government departments regarding workplace violence. Likewise, it aims to provide the necessary details about the chosen topic to further educate the people who are most vulnerable to the hazards of their occupations. Most importantly, this paper aims to deliver the roles and responsibilities of the employers in preventing, reducing and eradicating the presence of violence in their working site. These information are intended to prove that the management of each company plays a vital role in protecting their employees from probable and existing threats in their working premises.

Keywords: workplace violence, domestic violence, workplace harassment, employees, employers

 

Introduction

Work place violence is defined as any kind of upheaval and hostility that cause physical harm. It may be in the form of threats for physical injuries, intimidations, harassment, or bullying.  This violence is caused by the riotous behavior of a person inside or outside a workplace (USDA, 1998). Rugala (n.d.) stated that violence in the workplace is now considered as a category of crime that requires specific responses and resolutions from the employer, community and the enforcers of law. Stringer LLP (n.d.) defined workplace violence according to the Bill 168 or the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). As stated on the bill, physical forces that do not cause injury are also considered as workplace violence. Examples of these upheavals include sexual violence, verbal threats, notes and emails containing threats, weapon handling inside the workplace, and hitting or attempting to hit a co-worker. OHSA also added that the violence is not accidental and does not encompass to harm and injuries resulted from psychological problems of a person. Another kind of violence which involves personal relationships is usually caused by an acquaintance, friend, lover, spouse or relative. The objectives of this paper include the clear understanding about the nature of workplace violence and how it affects the performance of the employees. Also, it provides preventive measures and solutions to avoid or eliminate the presence of violence in the working stations as well as the role of the employers on the execution of the said actions.

Classification of Workplace Violence

USCD (n.d.) explained that common violence in the workplace has five classifications. These include the (1) employee-workplace, (2) occupational-workplace, (3) affiliated-workplace, (4) random-workplace, and (5) hate violence. The upheaval which results from relationship in a working place is labeled as employee-workplace violence whereas the upheaval resulting from the occupation of a person is called occupational-workplace violence. Upheavals that have already reached the outsides of the working area due to conflicts in the relationship of the involved individuals are classified as affiliated-workplace violence whereas the disturbance caused by a person who is not related to the working area is classified as random-workplace violence. Lastly, prejudice against an individual’s race, religion, ethnicity, gender, disability, political views, sexual orientation, or national origin may cause hate violence.

Similarly, the Minnesota Center against Violence and Abuse (n.d.) discussed that workplace violence may also be classified into four types which include (1) violence caused by strangers, (2) violence caused by clients or customers, (3) violence caused by co-workers and (4) violence caused by personal relations. Based on the report, violence caused by strangers is the primary cause of fatal and serious injuries incurred from the workplace. It includes the presence of robbers and other threats which can be related to a criminal act. It is reported that most of these upheavals occur during the nigh time and the culprits of the said violence often target taxi cabs and retail stores. Clients and customers who cause upheavals may be a patient, passenger, inmates, students and anyone who is under the supervisory administration of the working area. This type of violence may occur on a regular basis. On the other hand, violence caused by co-workers is reported to be lower in terms of its occurrence compared to the injuries and disturbances caused by strangers.

Workplace violence is influenced by different risk factors. These general factors influencing the presence of violence in the workplace include the contact and interaction with the public, involvement and exchange of currencies, delivery of goods, services and passengers, possessing a mobile working area such as police automobiles and taxi cabs, working with individuals who are establishing unstable health conditions such as those who are working in prison, criminal justice areas and social services locations, isolated working place, late night work or early morning periods, workplaces situated in areas with high crime rates, work that involves valuable possessions and properties, and work that is based in community (Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, n.d.)

Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (n.d.) also reported that the violence caused by strangers may be specifically influenced by factors such as involvement with money, solitary working, late night work schedule, isolated working area, work site with poor visibility and lighting, and offices situated in high crime places. Similarly, violence due to clients is influenced by the isolation of working staff, lack of controlled and regulated access to the work station, visibility of potential weapons, poor communication with the security personnel and poor alternative routes for escape purposes. In spite of the fact that violence inflicted by co-workers is not as high as the disturbances caused by strangers, factors influencing this upheaval should still be considerate. These factors include the stressful setting of the working station, stress that is not related to work, lack of rules and regulations provided by the management for penalizing actions, workers who already have history of violence and poor or lack training provided by the employers. Lastly, violence due to personal relations may be due to domestic violence, history of threatening characteristic and behavior of a worker and lack or poor regulated and controlled access on the working station.

With these classifications of violence, workplace harassment and domestic harassment can also be considered as a form of violence among a specific group. Workplace harassment can either be in the form of intimidation, sexual harassment, circulation and exhibition of belligerent materials such as pictures, intimidation during phone calls, bullying, teasing, spread of rumors, leering, undesirable attention or gifts, and stereotyping. These acts can cause intense violence in the workplace and even death.

Records of Workplace Violence

In February 2008, two police men and three civilians were killed by a gunman who had a record of being hostile against the local authorities. The gunman was later on killed by a gunshot from a police officer. In 2007, a Detroit workplace violence was recorded wherein one was killed and two were left injured by a shooter who entered the working station. The suspect was identified as a former employee of an accounting firm who was laid off a week before the shooting. Similarly in 2007, a man also killed an individual and injured two people in his former working area (“Violence in the Workplace – Workplace Incidents”, n.d.). (There were no reasons indicated behind these incidents. Please check your annotated bibliography and this source http://www.violencefreeworkplace.us/incidents)

Workplace Violence Statistics

Workplace violence is a serious problem for most international and local companies. It involves different factors that should be carefully addressed to avoid further problems in the future. This upheaval can cause tremendous impacts not only to the victim but also to the company itself. In fact, it could affect the productivity and at the same time contribute to the rise of expenses in health care, absenteeism and turnover of employees. Since this problem is globally significant, several states have already conducted surveys to assess and quantify the occurrence of violence in the workplace.

It was found out in a survey that twenty one percent of employees working full time are victims of domestic violence. These victims lose approximately eight million of their payments from work every year which is equal to thirty two thousands of jobs that are full time. In fact, most women who were victims of domestic violence claimed that the upheaval has a great impact on their work performance. These impacts include tardiness, inability to become promoted and missing their tasks and responsibilities. Since stalking is another action that may be related to workplace violence, reports about this have also been a public concern. As a matter of fact, over one million of female workers and around three hundred thousands of male employees have been or had experienced stalking in the United States (New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, n.d.).

Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (n.d.) stated that the average claims due to violence and assaults from State funds as well as self-insurance exceed to two thousand. This is equivalent to twelve claims per ten thousand workers who are working full time. In addition, missed works by the workers as well as legal expenses amount to more than four billion per year according to the report of the National Safe Workplace Institute. The department also reported that the industries that are usually on a high risk level include the fields of health care, education, security services, social services, retail trade, law enforcement, accommodation and food and beverage services and public transportation.

The Role of Employers

Stringer LLP (n.d.) cited the Bill 168 stating that the duties of employers include the execution of evaluation and assessment of risks of workplace violence, implementation of programs and policies to resolve or prevent workplace harassment or violence, providing information and instruction to the workers regarding the programs and policies that are executed on the working place, providing warning to the employees regarding the risk of workplace violence, and taking actions during an incident in order to protect the workers from domestic upheavals inside the workplace. Crime Reduction Canada (n.d.) discussed the measures an employer can do to prevent or resolve the violence occurring in the workplace. Company employers can/should conduct and implement risk assessment, training, policy, and security.

USDA (1998) provided precise and specific duties and responsibilities according to the position of the head or employer of a company. According to them, the roles of managers and supervisors include the dissemination of information regarding the polices involving workplace violence, ensuring the capabilities of the workers to cope up and deal with specific scenarios of violence and immediately contact the authorities and security and safety officials, ensuring the awareness and providing assistances to the workers about the procedures concerning the emergency evacuations, assuring that the workers who have special needs are also aware of procedures during emergency withdrawal, providing responses to intensifying scenarios and possible threats with the help of medical services and local law enforcers such as the human resource staff, federal protective service and employee assistance program, checking the background of each employee before officially hiring, and coordinating with agencies in order to create preventive plans against workplace violence.

On the other hand, the heads of agencies roles in workplace violence include the development of policies, assurance that all the employees are aware of the policies, assurance that the employers have executed a review and evaluation of security and safety inside the buildings and offices, provision of sufficient resources for the training and enhancing of awareness among the workers, provision of funds for the security and safety of the working area, and delivering brief information to the employees during meetings. Likewise, the staff for human resources should also provide trainings to the workers such as those that will improve their leadership skills, problem solving skills, counseling and resolution of disputes. Also, the staffs are responsible for providing consultation to assist the supervisors in determining the appropriate actions during a certain scenario and the determination of sufficient proofs and evidence to provide a just disciplinary measure after an investigation.

The short term counseling provided to the employees is provided by the employee assistance program counselors. These people are responsible for providing training to the laborers to deal with their problematic and raging co-workers. Likewise, they also have to inculcate to the workers a sense of change inside the working area. Supervisors can also consult with these professionals regarding their problems with the identification of particular conflicts in the working area. This is very important to resolve the problems that are still on its early stage thus preventing the occurrence of deeper conflicts and probable harms within the area. Organizations in the working place also have their own responsibility in preventing and eradicating the violence in the buildings and offices.

Providing a Workplace Policies and Preventive Measures

A Domestic Violence Policy Workplace Policy that should be implemented by the heads of the company can adopt the existing laws of the state. A typical policy includes a sample language, definition of terms, advices regarding the awareness for the employees, guidelines related to non-discriminatory and policies for responsive personnel to accommodate the problems of victims in the workplace, safety strategies and plans, liability and disciplinary actions for the employees who have violated the policies, training, rules regarding the possession of firearms and weapons, and supervisory and management responsibility (New York State Office of the Prevention of Domestic Violence, n.d.).

The statistics of the former incidents can help in the assessment of the necessary and appropriate actions that would be included on the mitigation of risks and planning procedures. Likewise, the company can adopt an existing program of a different industry which has been successful in preventing, minimizing and eradicating the violence in the working area. This is in accordance to Minnesota Center against Violence and Abuse’s (n.d) statement that developing a workplace violence policy that is intended to prevent the occurrence of future upheavals should focus on the documentation of incidents of violence in the working area. The success of the policy also depends on the dissemination of its contents and related information. Likewise, appropriate training is very important to make the members of the company prepared for the probable occurrence of hazards and threats in the working area.

The management of an establishment should consider the important elements to achieve an effective safety and health policy programs for their employees. These elements include the (1) commitment of the management and involvement of the workers, (2) analysis of the working area, (3) control and prevention of the hazards, (4) training for health and safety of the workers, and (5) evaluation of the program and keeping the records concerning the occurrence of violence or possible threats (Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Health Care & Social Service Worker”, n.d.).

Disturbances in the working site can be prevented with the help of the policies as well as measures established by the employer. For instance, violence caused by strangers can be minimized by training, providing a clear view of the cashier to the public for those businesses and establishments related to money, providing a security device on the site, provision of sufficient lighting outside the establishment, assigning a personnel for security matters, constant communication with police officers, request for police patrol in the working area, and addressing factors regarding isolation of staffs and crews. Likewise, violence due to clients and customers can be prevented by doing the same measures and providing better routes for escapes purposes. Similarly, the access of the customers to the working as well as the access of the probable suspects to weapons should be limited. To avoid the occurrence of violence cause by co-workers, the management should provide zero tolerance policies, managerial strategies to address layoffs and adequate disciplinary actions, prohibition of firearms and weapons inside the working area and improvement of the access of the employees to counseling programs.

According to USDA (1998), management’s response to incidents of violence should involve an (1) occupant emergency plans, (2) response team for emergency cases, (3) procedures and plans necessary for recovery of the work station, (4) evaluation, (5) assistance program provided to the employees, and (6) equal opportunities given to employees concerning the guidelines in commission. Likewise, policies should have zero tolerance on acts of intimidation, threats of violence and acts of violence. Risk assessment may also involve the performance issues of the employees which involve their problems with attendance, poor performance, poor relationship with their co-workers, insubordination, blaming of co-workers for faults and difficulties, manifestation of substance abuse such as illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco, intimidating acts and poor appearance and hygiene. Upon the identification of threats, the management should provide a TAG or threat assessment group which is comprised of the affected group or department, police department and labor relations department (“UCSD Workplace Violence Employee Handbook”, n.d.).

Conclusions

            Workplace violence is indeed an important issue that should be resolved by the involved parties. Failure to provide appropriate solutions may cause bigger conflicts or even death of the people included on the specific area. With these threats, the employers are the ones who should play the biggest role in protecting their employees. Hiring skilled personnel to provide protection and security to other workers is a responsibility of the employers. Likewise, provision of security devices and maintenance of the safety of the working station is also their primary goal. Due to the presence of special positions in an establishment, these upheavals can be easily eliminated especially if the employers are adopting the policies provided by the state laws. The protection that would be provided by the employers can save not only their workers’ lives and disposition but also their business from future expenses due to physical damages, injuries and income loss.

 

References

Crime Reduction Canada. (n.d.). Workplace Violence. Retrieved June 14, 2012, from http://www.crimereductioncanada.com/Documents/Commercial_Security/Workplace_Violence.pdf

Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Health Care & Social Service Workers. (n.d.).

Occupational Safety and Health Administration – Home. Retrieved June 8, 2012, from http://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3148

Minnesota Center against Violence and Abuse (n.d.). Workplace Violence Prevention.

Retrieved June 14, 2012 from http://www.dli.mn.gov/Wsc/PDF/WorkplaceViolencePreventionGuide.pdf

New York State Office of the Prevention of Domestic Violence. (n.d). Domestic Violence and Workplace. Web. Retrieved  June 14, 2012 from http://www.opdv.state.ny.us/professionals/workplace/dv-workplace.pdf

Rugala, E.A. (n.d.). Workplace Violence: Issues and Response. Retrieved June 14, 2012 from http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/workplace-violence

STRINGER LLP. (n.d.) Workplace Violence & Harassment:A Compliance Guide for Ontario Employers. Retrieved June 14, 2012

Violence In The Workplace – Workplace Incidents. (n.d.). Violence In The Workplace – Home. Retrieved June 8, 2012, from http://www.violencefreeworkplace.us/incidents USDA. (1998). The USDA Handbook on Workplace Violence Prevention and Response.

Retrieved June 14, 2012 from http://www.usda.gov/news/pubs/violence/wpv.htm UCSD Workplace Violence  Employee Handbook. (n.d.). Retrieved June 14, 2012 from http://www.police.ucsd.edu/docs/handbook.pdf

Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. (n.d.) Workplace Violence: Awareness And Prevention for Employers and Employee. Retrieved June 14, 2012 from http://www.lni.wa.gov/IPUB/417-140-000.pdf

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