By Natalie Higgins
During the past several years, workplace violence has become a growing concern. Not only do these events cause irreparable harm to the employees who are involved, but they also have profound liability implications for employers in the aftermath. While random acts of violence can occur anywhere, there are best practices that employers can follow to mitigate the risk of such an occurrence at their place of business. Following are some steps that outdoor power equipment dealerships should take to protect their employees and businesses from violence:
#1 Implement a workplace violence policy
Having a clear workplace violence policy is beneficial to employers in multiple ways. First, it allows the employer to clearly define conduct that will not be tolerated such as making threats of violence, aggressive or hostile acts like throwing objects, using profanity, attempting to intimidate or bully a co-worker, etc. Second, a clear workplace violence policy gives employers an effective way to identify conduct as inappropriate and to document that conduct as a violation of the employer’s policies. Documenting conduct that violates workplace policies empowers the employer to take decisive action to either correct or eliminate the conduct in question from the workplace, while protecting the employer against employment-related claims, such as wrongful termination. Third, having a clear workplace violence policy educates employees to be management’s “eyes and ears” on the ground. When properly drafted, workplace violence policies provide concerned employees with the information they need to: 1) identify suspicious or dangerous behavior; and 2) understand the steps that they should take to promptly report the conduct in question to ensure the situation is properly addressed.
#2 Implement policies that can assist with identifying employee mental health needs
Many modern healthcare policies contain mental health and/or counseling benefits. In addition, it is prudent for employers to implement an employee assistance program for employees and/or their eligible dependents. Employee assistance programs typically provide benefits designed to help manage personal problems that can impact an employee’s well-being and work performance through free or reduced-cost mental health or counseling services. Providing this resource is one way that employers can help employees help themselves with issues such as depression, anxiety and personal relationship communication issues. In turn, employers hope these programs will lead to a happier and more productive workforce.
#3 Implement policies aimed at preventing workplace dissatisfaction
In order to mitigate the risk of employee dissatisfaction, employers should consider implementing a simple employee complaint and/or grievance procedure. An effective employee complaint and/or grievance procedure allows employees to feel as if their thoughts, feelings and opinions are being “heard” and provides employers with the opportunity to correct small issues before they become larger problems that could result in litigation or even workplace violence.
#4 Conduct workplace violence preparation training
There is no substitution for emergency preparedness. Every employer, at a minimum, should assess the risk factors to their business and establish procedures to deal with different types of potential threats. It is advisable to consult with local law enforcement officials to see if they would be willing to assist in auditing or even in the development of your emergency response preparedness plans.
Natalie Higgins is VP of government relations & general counsel at the Equipment Dealers Association (EDA). EDA is a St. Louis, Mo.-based, non-profit, trade organization representing approximately 4,500 retail dealers in the United States and Canada extensively engaged in the sale and service of outdoor power, lawn and garden, agricultural, construction, industrial, forestry and/or turf equipment. She may be reached at email@example.com. For more information about EDA, visit www.equipmentdealer.org or call (636) 349-5000.