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We all want to believe that some of the devastating violent acts we read and hear about in the news will only happen to ‘them’ not ‘us.’ We want to believe that our workplace is safe and can continue to go to work and come home unharmed.

We avoid potentially dangerous situations in the streets and in our homes, making sure that we’re well protected from potential hijackers, muggers and home burglars.

Unfortunately, violence does occur in the workplace during robberies, between ex-partners, by ex-employees or sometimes perpetrated by the withdrawn but otherwise harmless employee. Thus, the first step to protecting ourselves is to acknowledge that violence does take place in the workplace. The following are guidelines you can follow in order to prevent potentially violent situations.

Develop a plan or written policy to address it
·The policy should state clearly that employee’s and customer safety is a priority. A commitment from the owners is a critical step.
·Communicate the policy to employees. State clearly how you expect employees to behave to customers and each other.
·Ask your employees to help you identify potentially violent situations and to devise a strategy to assure the employees’ safety.

What you should do should a violent act take place

Your reaction to the event is as critical as your original preventative steps.
1.Make an immediate investigation
2.Determine what action needs to be taken
3.Help the police in their investigation
4.Support the prosecution of the offenders
5.Provide information and counseling services to the affected employees and their families
6.Determine what could be done differently in the future to avert such an event-taking place again.

Some ideas to make your workplace safe

a.Install an alarm system
b.Consider using closed circuit cameras in high risk areas
c.Make sure that employees are never left alone in vulnerable situations (for example, don’t stay at work late counting your day’s cash takings after everyone is gone.)
d.Consider the use of security guards.
e.Suggest escorts for employees working late hours
f.Make it clear that violence will not be tolerated
g.Carefully screen all new employees and always check the references
h.Make sure that you and your managers are always alert to signs of a potentially troubled employee
i.Establish an internal emergency code, to be used in times of crisis
j.Make sure that emergency numbers are up to date and readily accessible
k.Encourage employees to call for help whenever they are in a situation which seems to be escalating out of control.