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July 11, 2011 / mike54martin

Workplace Wellness: Work Can be a Dangerous Place

Workplace Wellness: Work can be a Dangerous Place

By Mike Martin

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) workplace violence is a growing concern for Canadian workers and the threat of violence at work is not just limited to physical assault. Workplace violence can include any act where a worker is abused, threatened, intimidated or assaulted in the course of his or her employment. This can include a range of actions including threatening behaviour, verbal or written threats, verbal abuse and of course physical abuse which includes hitting, shoving, pushing or kicking.

The extent of workplace violence may be hidden from the public eye since many acts go unreported and there has not been an active effort to collect statistics on workplace violence until recent years. But from April 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009, Ontario Ministry of Labour Inspectors made 417 field visits and issued 351 orders related to violence in the workplace inOntarioalone. There is also widespread evidence that workplace violence has dramatically increased in the last five years. According to the Canadian Initiative on Workplace Violence two thirds of organizations surveyed report an increase in aggressive acts within their workplaces and over eighty per cent report an increase in both formal incident reports and grievances.

Some professions by the nature of their work and their high level of interaction with high risk populations are more in danger of exposure to workplace violence that others. These include jobs that handle money or prescription drugs like cashiers or pharmacists, occupations that carry out inspection or enforcement duties or those working with volatile or unstable persons in social services or the criminal justice system.

At particular risk seem to be health care workers, correctional officers, social services employees, teachers and retail workers. There are also times of the day or night, month or year that seem to more likely to see acts of workplace violence. They include late at night or early morning, the end of the month before assistance checks arrive, Christmas and holidays, and for employee on employee violence pay days or performance appraisal time.

It may not be possible to prevent all possible acts of violence at work but there are measures that can be taken to make every workplace as safe as possible for employees, volunteers, clients and customers. These measures fall into three main categories: workplace design, administrative practices and work practices and in each area there are concrete steps that an organization can take to reduce the possibility of an employee being abused or attacked.

CCOHS offers the following helpful suggestions in each of these categories. In workplace design employers should consider factors such as workplace lay-out, use of signs, locks or physical barriers, lighting, electronic surveillance and building security. In particular organizations should consider installing physical barriers so that there is separation between staff and customers or clients and controlling the access to certain areas through coded cards or key systems. Administrative practices that can reduce the risk of workplace violence include strict controls on drugs or pharmaceuticals, limiting the amount of cash on the premises, installing a locked drop safe or arranging for cash pick up by a licensed security firm.

Work practices that can help prevent incidents of workplace violence include using a buddy system and never working alone, especially late at night or early in the morning. Other safe work practices could be having a designated contact person when someone is out of the office and regularly scheduled contact times. If the person does not check in at the appropriate time then an alarm is raised about their safety with security personnel or the police. For occupations and jobs that might require home visits there needs to be some client screening done in advance of the first home visit by the professional.

One of the best ways to ensure the overall safety of all employees is to have a written policy on workplace violence that outlines management’s commitment to a workplace that is free of violence, harassment and other unacceptable behaviours. This policy should be developed by both management and employee representatives and should define workplace violence in precise, concrete language that encourages both the development of preventative measures and the reporting of all incidents of violence. This policy should be posted in the workplace and a copy should be provided to every new employee as part of their orientation program.

It is time to bring workplace violence out of the shadows by recording all incidents of violence at work. This will help to build awareness on the part of workers and employers about the need to work together to prevent such incidents from arising in the future.

Mike Martin is a freelance writer and consultant specializing in workplace wellness and conflict resolution. He is the author of the soon to be released book “Change the Things You Can” (Dealing with Difficult People). For more information about Mike please visit:

www.changethethingsyoucan.wordpress.com

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6 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. kim / Aug 8 2011 10:39 am

    One of the best methods to ensure the overall safety of all employees is to have a faa drug abatement program. Substance abuse causes many problems in the workplace and this program can really help employers prevent workplace accidents, injuries and other issues. great article, Mike! Keep up the good work!

  2. Your own space is actually important to me. Thank you!…

  3. Workplace Safety Signs Obsess / Oct 10 2011 5:21 am

    Hi, find your post fascinating as well as educational. I’m going to drop by once again sometime. Appreciate it!

  4. kahlua recipes / Oct 17 2011 9:44 am

    There are some interesting points in time in this article but I don’t know if I see all of them heart to eye . There is some validity but I will take hold judgement until I look into it further. Good clause, thanks and we want more! Added to FeedBurner besides.

  5. kahlua recipes / Oct 18 2011 6:33 am

    I really liked the way you presented this information. It nice to read good information like this rather than to waste your time doing nothing. Great Job! Thnkas for posting it!

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