The job of a human resource professional is more dangerous than many people realize.

HR professionals are often leaders in workplace violence prevention initiatives. They have a special duty to advance proper prevention initiatives within their organizations.

HR professionals develop, interpret, and enforce organizational policies, and are responsible for handling terminations, hiring, promotion, and zero-tolerance protocols. They are often held accountable for overlooking or disregarding evidence of threats or criminal convictions uncovered in the hiring process.

Business owners must recognize that HR personnel are often at higher risk of being the victim of an incident of workplace violence than other employees.

Risks of Workplace Violence (Statistics)

The Society of Human Resources Management, the largest HR professional society, revealed that 48% of HR professionals surveyed said that their organization had experienced workplace violence.

While the workplace shooting at a Virginia Beach government office was the deadliest workplace shooting of 2019, it was not the first.

On February 15, 2019, a shooter at a manufacturing plant in Aurora, Illinois killed five victims.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 458 of 5,000 workplace fatalities in 2017 were homicides. Co-workers or other work associates perpetrated fifteen percent of those homicides.

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HR Professionals Are the First Line of Defense Against Workplace Violence

HR professionals have a lot to manage, and sometimes, ideas can often be conflicting:

  • Employees’ rights need to be addressed quickly and promptly. HR needs to follow federal, state, and local labor laws. Should a violent event occur, lawyers will look to see if any violations of OSHA took place.
  • Human resource professionals need to know and understand the rules and exemptions when it comes to protecting employees. They need to know when to disclose information and when to keep information private, primarily when risks to others occur.
  • Human resource professionals must look for warning signs and concerning behaviors of employees. If these signs or behaviors continue without any intervention, it could lead to workplace violence incidents. Warnings signs may include depression or disgruntlement, but these don’t necessarily mean they part of zero-tolerance policies like sexual harassment or more physical incidents. However, depression and disgruntlement can be clues.

HR professionals cannot do it all, especially in smaller businesses. Knowing when to bring in law enforcement or other experts is critical in accounting for organizational “blind spots.”

It is wise to work with law enforcement in incidents of risky terminations, to counsel those involved in a risky termination on de-escalation techniques, and to offer outplacement services, resume help, and a letter of reference to terminated employees, if appropriate.

Collaborate With Other Professionals to Reduce the Likelihood of Workplace Violence

Having the right team of HR professionals in place to connect employees with additional resources is a critical step in reducing the likelihood of workplace violence.

HR departments should strive to create a psychologically healthy workplace where employees have no fear of repercussion for speaking out when they suspect someone might be displaying warning signs of workplace violence.
All employees should receive training from a conflict management firm. With more staff awareness, violent situations are less likely to occur.

No Matter the Size of the Business, a Plan is Needed

HR professionals should evaluate security and risk management holistically. No matter the size of a business, a plan to prevent workplace violence must be put in place.

Taking proactive steps to reduce workplace violence and creating the ability to respond to an incident of workplace violence quickly makes the workplace a difficult target for violent offenders.

McGowan Program Administrators knows what an effective insurance response can do if there’s an emergency. Our Active Shooter / Workplace Violence insurance program helps organizations and provides comprehensive coverage, including day one coverages for victims, primary liability, business interruption, extra expense, and crisis management services. We’re ready to help set up a plan for businesses and organizations of any size.