Approximately 15 per cent of work-related deaths are caused by workplace violence. In addition to the safety risks, businesses also lose an estimated $130 billion annually in lost wages when employees have to take time off due to violence in the workplace.
While it’s important to prevent violent incidents from occurring in your company in the first place, that isn’t always possible. If an incident does occur, protect your employees using these five tips for fast, effective workplace violence investigations.
Case management software makes it easier and faster to investigate workplace violence, as well as identify areas of risk to prevent future incidents. Find out more in our free eBook.
1. Act Quickly
According to Timothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., “the majority of violent workplace incidents start with low-level confrontations, then escalate if not resolved.”
Often, employees experience issues that simmer for months before the person turns violent. That’s why dealing with the first signs or even risk factors of workplace violence can save your organization from a disastrous incident.
Managers, supervisors and HR professionals should watch out for employees who:
- were once social but have turned anti-social
- were once calm but have become irrational or manic
- are frequently short-tempered and angry
- start fights, either verbal or physical
- make excuses or blame others for their problems or mistakes
- can’t accept organizational changes
- exhibit inconsistent work patterns, including decreased productivity
- have attendance issues
- use vulgar, offensive and/or verbally abusive language at work or work functions
- stomp their feet, pound their fists on the desk, hit the wall or perform other brief acts of violence
Victims may be hesitant to report a violent incident for fear of retaliation. As a result, when they finally do complain, the aggressor may have acted violently many times and victimized other employees. Investigate workplace violence as soon as possible and take every complaint seriously. You never know when a small act of violence could escalate into a dangerous or even fatal incident.
2. Find the Root Cause
The main goal of investigating workplace violence is to prevent similar incidents from happening again. In order to do that, you need to uncover the root cause of the incident. After you determine the cause of the violent act, you can make the necessary changes to the situation or your organization to prevent future issues.
Employees could be motivated to turn to violence because of:
- personality conflicts with coworkers, managers, vendors or clients
- work-related stress or feeling overwhelmed
- family and marital problems
- emotional or mental issues
- substance abuse
During your investigation, figure out the root cause and support your analysis with sufficient evidence. A well-supported root-cause analysis ensures the violent person is supported and/or punished properly, but also helps you make appropriate, effective recommendations for change.
Learn more ways to keep your employees safe by watching our webinar, 6 Keys to Preventing and Responding to Workplace Violence.
3. Use Case Management Software
When investigating workplace violence, you can’t afford to miss any information. One lost interview answer, photo or incident report could alter the entire investigation. This could mean a violent employee left free to strike again or an innocent one terminated for no reason.
With a case management system, you can store all relevant data and documents right in the case file, keeping your information safe and organized. If you use a case management solution with access roles, you’ll protect the privacy of the accused person as well as witnesses and victims, promoting a work culture of both safety and confidentiality.
Reporting incidents of violence to OSHA is essential, but can also take precious time away from your investigation. Use case management software with reporting capabilities and forms built in. You’ll be able to focus your time and effort on investigating rather than paperwork.
4. Create an Investigation Report
Workplace violence investigations should be well-documented throughout the process, complete with a concise yet thorough investigation report at the end.
This document should include a summary of the investigative findings, a root cause analysis with supporting evidence and suggestions for preventive actions. In workplace violence investigations where you determine that violence has not occurred, investigators should still recommend organizational changes whenever possible to prevent violent incidents in the future.
“Wrapping up the investigation requires the company to analyze the information and assess the credibility of any witnesses, develop the appropriate response from the company, and check to make sure that response is consistent with past practices from the company,” says Brett Holubeck, attorney and author of the Texas Labor Law Blog.
5. Take Preventive Action
After investigating workplace violence, regardless of the outcome, take steps to reduce your risk of violent incidents.
Start by making a security plan for the next one to five years. In this plan, Dimoff suggests, include risks of violence in your workplace, possible solutions, immediate areas for improvement and ways to improve employee safety over time.
Use this opportunity to update your organization’s employee handbook with new policies and procedures to promote safety. Don’t forget to distribute the updated document to all employees and train them on it. This ensures employees know what behaviors are acceptable and how to report workplace violence if they witness it.
As an employer, you can also keep small issues from escalating into violence by offering an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Giving employees access to counseling, emotional support and other wellness resources may help troubled individuals get the help they need before they lash out.
Finally, screen prospective employees thoroughly during the hiring process and even the probation period. If they have a history of violence or exhibit one of the indicators of workplace violence listed above, think twice before inviting them into your organization.