January 19

Safety Training for the Workplace: Combatting Violence and Sexual Harassment

Employers have a duty to provide a safe workplace where their employees are not subjected to violence or sexual harassment. If you run a business, you should provide your workers with training so they know how to spot warning signs, how to address potential dangers, and what to do if they or someone else is victimized.

Understand the Definition of Workplace Violence

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “Workplace violence is 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. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers and visitors.”

Provide Training and Make Other Changes to Keep Your Workers Safe

Training programs should explain what types of conduct are and are not appropriate in the workplace. Employees can be given examples of violence and sexual harassment but should be clearly told that the list is not all-inclusive. Role-playing exercises may be helpful so that workers can better understand which types of behavior are acceptable and which cross a line. Training can also include strategies to deescalate tense situations and prevent violence.

Workers should be taught how to recognize signs that an individual may be depressed, suicidal, dealing with substance abuse, or experiencing domestic violence. An individual who is struggling to cope may behave violently against others, and a person who abuses an employee at home may carry out an act of violence at the victim’s workplace.

You should also review your current security procedures. Consider making changes, such as upgrading your security system, installing security cameras, hiring guards, and increasing the amount of outdoor lighting.

Explain the Consequences for Inappropriate Conduct

Institute a zero-tolerance policy. Clearly inform all employees that engaging in violence, harassment, or intimidation will result in punishment, possibly including termination. Create policies and procedures so employees know how to handle violence, sexual harassment, or threats coming from a coworker, a customer, a vendor, or another party.

In a case involving violence or sexual harassment, state and/or federal laws may apply. Discuss relevant statutes so that workers understand the sorts of behaviors that are prohibited and potential consequences for violations.

Encourage Employees to Come Forward

Often, workers who experience or witness violence or sexual harassment or who notice suspicious or concerning behavior are reluctant to report it. Employees may fear retaliation, or they may be hesitant to raise concerns if they don’t have firm evidence. Tell workers that if they report their concerns, investigators will use discretion and a much more serious problem may be prevented. 

Provide Professional Training for Your Employees

UniShield provides a variety of instructional programs for businesses in Southern California. We can teach members of your team how to detect potential threats, how to respond to acts of violence, how to prevent sexual harassment, and what to do if violence or harassment occurs. Contact us today to learn more.


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