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Workplace Violence

Man Approaching Woman in Parking LotWorkplace violence is defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide.

Positions where you deal directly with the public can sometimes become dangerous. Nearly 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year. Jobs in retail, food or customer service industries, and so forth put you in contact with people who may be disgruntled or confrontational. Know your company’s philosophy on how to handle an irate guest and what steps you should take to de-escalate and get out of a dangerous situation. Should a confrontation escalate, the most important thing is to get yourself to someplace safe. In the event a customer physically harms you, know what your company can do to assist with legal and medical expenses.

But workplace violence is not always perpetrated by strangers, customers, or clients. Sometimes domestic disputes extend into the workplace. If you are in an abusive relationship or know of a co-worker who is in an abusive relationship, you might do any or all of the following:

  • Inform your boss, security supervisor, and other colleagues at work about your situation.
  • Ask colleagues to help screen telephone calls at work.
  • When leaving work, create different safety routes that keep you surrounded by people and public locations.
  • When driving home, if problems occur, know who you can call including 911.
  • If you use public transportation, you can identity multiple safe routes to get home or to a friend’s house.
  • Use different grocery stores and shopping malls to get what you need and shop at hours that are different from those your abuser might expect.
  • Use a different bank and take care of your banking at hours that are different from those you used when you were with your abuser.1

Building and Office Trouble Spots

  • Is the receptionist equipped with a panic button for emergencies, a camera with a monitor, and a lock on the front door that can be controlled?
  • Don’t use the stairs alone. Talk to the building manager about improving poorly lighted corridors and stairways.
  • Don’t get into elevators with people who look out of place or behave in a strange or threatening manner. If you find yourself in an elevator with someone like that, get out as soon as possible.
  • Attackers can hide in stalls and corners. Make sure restrooms are locked and only employees have keys. Be extra cautious when using restrooms that are isolated or poorly lighted.
  • Don’t work late alone. Create a buddy system for walking to parking lots or public transportation, or ask security personnel to escort you.
  • Choose a well-lighted, well-guarded parking garage. Always lock your car and put the windows up all the way. If you notice strangers hanging around the parking lot, notify security personnel or the police.
  • When you approach your car, have the key ready. Check the floor and front and back seats before getting in. Lock your car as soon as you get in—before you buckle your seatbelt.

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