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Points to Cover in a Workplace Violence Policy

A list and explanation of items you'll want to include:

Violence in the workplace can have many sources. 

It can be a current or former disgruntled employee. It can be an angry customer, spouse, or relative of an employee. The violence can be the result of discipline or firing an employee, abuse of drugs, abuse of alcohol, harassment by co-workers, mental illness, or work-related stress. 

Often, the policies geared toward preventing violence will cover such topics as workplace contraband, outside visitors, security measures, use of alarm systems, and plans for reacting to violence. What follows below are points to cover when you are crafting a policy to manage and avoid workplace violence.

Points to Cover
Security. Your workplace violence policy should be coordinated with your plans for security. For example, you can require employees to work in teams of two or more so that no one person is alone in your facility. Similarly, you can provide voluntary escorts to remote parking areas.

Consider if your policy should ban working late night or early morning hours. Should you use a drop safe? What security signs should you post? Are physical barriers, such as bulletproof enclosures between customers and employees, needed? Are pass-through windows for customer transactions needed? Does your policy need to limit entry to authorized persons during certain hours of operation?

Training. Your policy should provide for training of employees to avoid placing them in danger. Further, they can be taught how to react once the danger occurs, despite all of their efforts.

Force. Your policy and your training should also address the use of force in response to violence. Does applicable law permit you to make a citizen's arrest? How much force is permissible when responding to threats of violence? Actual violence?

Surveys. Your policy should provide that on a routine basis, one person or one department is responsible for surveying your facility to identify potential security problems and to take corrective action.

Workplace contraband. Your policy should include a statement regarding which weapons will not be permitted on your premises.

You should determine whether applicable law allows you to or even requires you to ban handguns from the workplace. Once you learn what the law requires as well as permits, then you can properly write your policy.

Visitors. Your policy should identify any restrictions on the presence of visitors. For example, you may require vendors to sign in. You might also require all visitors to sign in. You might also require all visitors to be escorted everywhere on the premises.

Code. Your policy should identify a code phrase or name that can be used to indicate that help is needed without alerting a potentially violent person that help is being sought.

Alarm systems. Your policy should require you to periodically check alarm systems, video surveillance equipment, drop-safes or comparable devices, surveillance lighting, or other security devices, to make certain they are in working order. If you do not have an alarm system or other security system, your policy should require you to periodically review the need for such systems.

Cellular phones. Cellular phones, which will operate even when electricity is lost or phone lines are cut off, can assist in responding to any violent situation. Your policy should address whether you will provide such equipment to your employees.

Response to bomb threats. Your policy should identify what steps you will take if there is a bomb threat made.

Searches. Your policy on violence should be coordinated with your policy with respect to searches. For example, are all packages subject to search? Do you search employees' lockers? Do you search employees' briefcases, handbags, and the like?

Parking lot. You may want to restrict your parking lot to employees only or visitors only, or a combination of designated parking. Depending upon your business activities, you may want to make it difficult for anyone to leave a vehicle close to the building, as that vehicle might contain a bomb.

Do you need speed bumps placed in traffic lanes used to exit drive-up windows to deter would-be criminals by reducing the chance for a quick escape?

Obstructions. You should periodically review your facilities to determine if there are any obstructions, hiding places, or the like that may permit an individual to hide before they attack.

Public announcement system. Your policy should address how to use the public address system to warn employees of a violent individual. If you do not have a public address system, you may want to review annually whether you need one in order to alert employees of an event of violence.

Aids to identification. Depending upon the layout of your facility, you may be able to provide visual aids to employees to assist in later identifying persons who became violent. For example, at doorways you can have markings indicating height above the floor so that a more accurate description of the individual's height can be given.

Security cameras. You should consider whether you will place security cameras to photograph any persons who become violent.

Drug testing. Your policy concerning violence should be coordinated with your drug-testing policy.

Security guards. Your policy should identify whether you will routinely have security guards. If you do not have security guards at all times, then you should identify what hours of the day you will have security guards. If you have security guards only on special occasions, you should identify the source for hiring such guards. For example, many employers only use off-duty police officers to provide occasional security.

Reports to police. Your policy should identify whether and when you will report threats of violence to the police.

Prosecution. Your policy should provide that you will prosecute all those who engage in violent behavior.

Enforcement. For an effective program, your policy should establish employee sanctions for those employees who chronically and/or purposefully violate administrative controls or work practices. An employee who has been properly trained and consulted after such a violation, but who continues to violate established written work practice, should be disciplined accordingly.

Excerpted from the "Encyclopedia of Pre-written Personnel Policies", copyright Business & Legal Reports, Inc. Old Saybrook, CT ( or 1-800-7-ASK-BLR).

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