HOW TO HELP PREVENT WORKPLACE VIOLENCE WITH PRE-EMPLOYMENT SCREENING
Violence in the workplace is increasing, a reflection of how violent acts are also growing in society. These are worrying trends for employers, but they aren’t powerless to stop them.
Preventing violence in the workplace requires a raft of measures, from robust monitoring and reporting structures to a cultural ethos that ensures employees feel safe and able to call out incidents to senior staff.
Any employer can deploy a comprehensive raft of measures to eliminate the risk of workplace violence. But the most critical step starts before workers enter the workforce with pre-employment screening.
Pre-employment screening gives a solid account of who makes up the workforce. Read on to learn how to implement pre-employment screening to help prevent workplace violence and protect those most at risk.
Who Is at Risk of Workplace Violence?
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration has estimated incidents of workplace violence at around two million per year, with a spectrum of cases ranging from verbal abuse to homicides.
As if these stats aren’t worrying enough, an estimated two percent of cases go unreported.
These risks of workplace violence don’t impact all workers and employers equally. Certain groups of workers are more at risk of workplace violence than others.
Some of these are obvious, but bullying, intimidation, and violence can occur at all strata within an organization. They aren’t just a problem for particular group identities but also related to other factors like the job itself.
Specific employment sectors support data that show workers in these areas are more likely to experience violence in the workplace.
Healthcare and social workers are often on the frontline regarding personal safety. Other occupations, like taxi drivers, also regularly experience high levels of violence from passengers.
Now, other sectors are coming under the spotlight, areas that wouldn’t necessarily have come to mind. All workplaces are at risk of violent behavior if the correct strategies are not in place.
Workplace violence can happen anywhere, and with the rise in hybrid and remote working, it’s now easier for bullying and intimidation to happen away from the workplace, under the radar. Domestic violence can be the precursor to workplace violence at a later date.
Women have always been vulnerable to workplace violence, and the data has not changed much over the decades. The National Safety Council reports that women make up 70% of non-fatal workplace assaults and injuries.
These incidents are disproportionately represented in specific industries, including healthcare; education; and business, management, and finance. The risk is as prevalent as ever, requiring robust and thorough practices to prevent these incidents from becoming normalized within these industries.
Marginalized groups are at risk, not only because they are already marginalized within society but because their marginalization also can come with other risk factors such as restricted access to medical and mental health resources, reduced reporting, and fear of retaliation.
For example, migrant workers may face various types of abuse and risks of violence, including hazardous working conditions, physical and verbal abuse, trafficking, sexual harassment, and more. Barriers may include lack of access to health care, documentation status, and governmental policies that overlook this group.
The LGBTQ people are also at risk, with almost 50% reporting they have experienced workplace discrimination. Many hide their identity in the workplace to avoid bullying, harassment, and intimidation, all of which can lead to violence.
What Are the Costs of Workplace Violence?
The costs associated with workplace violence have a ripple effect, impacting not only the victims but their co-workers, managers, and the organization.
On a nationwide scale, workplace violence results in millions of lost workdays and millions of dollars in lost wages.
Victims may end up paying for costs arising from trauma care, compensation, psychological counseling, and rehabilitation after injury.
Employers also see the impact in many ways, with performance indicators including issues with employee retention, reduced productivity, attendance problems, and others.
Preventing Workplace Violence With Pre-employment Screening
A robust program for preventing workplace violence begins at the point of recruitment. Pre-employment screening checks are an employer’s first line of defense to protect the workers and the company.
A pre-employment background check can screen for many things, including criminal history, employment verification, reference check, etc. A record of the candidate’s past behavior indicates their future likely conduct.
However, screening candidates can be a time-intensive and costly endeavor for small and medium-sized companies. Contracting this out to an organization specializing in pre-employment screening checks is often quicker and safer.
Other Ways to Prevent Workplace Violence
Besides a pre-employment background check, there are plenty of other ways to prevent workplace violence:
- Establish Policies to Prevent Harassment—Creating a workplace culture of tolerance and respect is essential. Bullying behavior, intimidation, and harassment will not ensure happy and productive staff and are often the precursors for violent acts, which can escalate if left unchecked. There should be a written policy that reinforces correct behavior at all levels in the organization and is also disseminated regularly throughout the workforce.
- Create an Inclusive Workplace Culture—You want a workplace that respects the differences amongst staff members and actively encourages a diverse workplace. Entrenched attitudes can develop between different types of workers or because of cultural or ethnic identity. Workplace integration, such as a buddy scheme across different areas and regular social activities encouraging mixing, will improve employee inclusion. Celebrate diversity as a strength, not something that causes division.
- Instill Effective Reporting Structures—Setting up open lines of communication with easy access to senior management and HR staff makes it easier for staff to report any incidents, even small ones. Encouraging early reporting helps identify and address matters before they escalate.
- Provide Conflict Resolution Resources—Implement a structure where employees can file grievances and meet a proper response. Advertise this widely throughout the organization, so all staff knows it takes grievances seriously and acts upon them.
- Establish an Anti-Violence Program—An anti-violence program provides regular online training modules. These should be compulsory for all staff without exception. A structured program helps raise awareness and trains people to spot undesirable behavior, which can be the precursor to something more serious.
- Protect Vulnerable Staff—Employees working late or alone should have additional protection measures.
- Train Staff to Respond Appropriately—As part of staff protection, create training sessions, so employees know how to respond to threatening or violent behavior. Lack of reporting is often the result of confusion about how to respond when there’s been a threatening or violent incident.
- Enforce Sanctions—There should be a written protocol detailing sanctions for unacceptable behavior, which should be readily available to all staff. A system of sanctions and punishment help staff feel protected and encourage open reporting.
- Don’t Overlook Visitors—Implement workplace surveillance to screen visitors, including accurate security assessment of anyone who enters the premises.
Establish a Safe Work Environment for Employees
Establishing a safe work environment for employees is morally correct and pays dividends in terms of happy working culture and good staff retention. Reducing workplace violence results in improved productivity and fewer workdays.
Safe working environments don’t just happen; they require top-down measures and robust policies to keep staff safe. It all starts with a thorough pre-employment screening.
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