Ensuring employees feel safe in the workplace

You can't guarantee everyone on your staff will enjoy every aspect of their jobs. Certain parts of their daily responsibilities will sometimes feel a little bit routine. But you must constantly strive to make sure employees feel comfortable and safe in all settings of your working environment. Implementing and enforcing measures intended to support employee workplace safety requires examining the issue from all angles and developing concrete guidelines that address all of the situations from which workplace violence and bullying can originate.

Identify your workplace's violence and bullying risk

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, approximately 2 million American workers a year document themselves as victims of violence in their professional lives. In 2017, there were 18,670 injuries to American workers intentionally caused by other persons that required one or more days away from work, and 733 more that resulted in death, 458 of which were ruled homicides by law enforcement. Women comprised more than two-thirds of the victims. Of course, you don't get to 2 million with those numbers. Plenty of workplace-violence incidents don't require time off or medical attention. But they're still damaging to individuals and organizations alike in countless ways, and an all-too-large share of workplace violence goes unreported. 

Perform a comprehensive risk assessment of your organization through subtle but meticulous research. Account not only for violence perpetrated against workers by non-employees (such as assaults on nurses or mass shootings), but also altercations between employees that turn physical.

Ensuring employees feel safe in the workplaceWorkplace violence and bullying can take many different forms.

Establish zero tolerance

Then there's bullying, workplace violence's less physical but more insidious cousin. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, 19% of Americans were bullied at work and another 19% witnessed it. All told, 60.4 million people in the U.S. suffered from in-office bullying, so the problem must factor into your workplace safety strategy.

OSHA recommends that employers establish a clear, written zero-tolerance policy against workplace violence and bullying. It should be seamlessly integrated with your existing employee handbook and readily accessible so those who instigate bullying or violence can't plead ignorance. Impose any and all disciplinary measures necessary – within the parameters of any applicable federal, state or local employment laws, of course. Also, in situations where violence is a regular risk, Rave Mobile Safety recommended establishing quick-alert procedures that can bring building security immediately.

Create training sessions

Training can help employees deal with workplace violence and bullying. They must understand the importance of immediate reporting and writing down details of all incidents, as well as mental self-defense tactics deployable in the moment: For example, management consultant Lynne Curry told Fast Company that employees who ground themselves in the face of bullying with poker-faced neutrality may defuse aggressors by robbing them of their intended reaction. Above all, remaining calm is key.

Remember the mental factor

Regular exposure to workplace violence and bullying can traumatically weigh on the mind even if victims or witnesses handle it well at the time, leading to anxiety, depression or disengagement. Keep an eye on workers who've experienced these stressors and guide them to any behavioral health resources your benefits package offers – if there aren't any, you'll want to rectify that as soon as possible.