OSHA Safety Manuals | Personal Protection Against Workplace Violence
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workplace violence

Personal Protection Against Workplace Violence

Personal Protection Against Workplace Violence

Each year in the workplace, an estimated 1.7 million workers are injured in assaults and approximately 800 homicides occur. Workplace violence incidents include verbal assault, simple or aggravated assault, robbery, rape and homicide. Anyone can become the victim of a workplace assault, so it is important to know the risk factors.

Factors that increase the risk of workplace violence include contact with the public; the exchange of money; and guarding or delivering valuable property. Other factors include mobile workplaces (cars or trucks); working in high-crime areas, and working late night or early morning hours. Finally, workers that have contact with unstable and volatile persons in health care, social services, and criminal justice settings can be at risk.

If you are at risk for workplace violence, know and follow the safety guards in place at your worksite. Respect requirements for restricted access to the public. Ensure that visitors are screened when entering the workplace and escort them throughout the building. Physical separations like glass walls, partitions, and deep counters can provide distance between you and the public, so use them. Security measures like video cameras, two-way mirrors, and personal or desk panic alarms can help you communicate if you are in distress.

Know and follow the policies for opening and closing your place of business and handling and transporting cash and valuables. Make it a rule to work with a backup employee or enough staff coverage if you will be dealing with a potentially hostile person. Keep possible offensive weapons like sharp or heavy instruments locked away and out of the public eye.

Get training on recognizing and reporting the signs of a disturbed coworker, customer, or member of the public. You should also seek training on handling hostile customers and diffusing violent situations. Immediately report violent incidents and threats to management; often, violent threats can escalate to become violent acts.

When faced with a hostile person, respect their personal space and be aware of your body language, movements, and tone of voice. Stay calm and diffuse the situation. Try to keep a barrier like a desk between yourself and the person, but don’t block yourself into a corner. If there is no barrier available, stand at an angle and 4 to 6 feet from the person; this keeps you at arms length and gives you a means to escape. Have plans should a dangerous situation arise; note exits, phones, and potential defensive weapons. Use physical force as a defense only.