With Workplace Violence on the Rise, 1 out of 7 People Don’t Feel Safe at Work

New SHRM data demonstrates need for more workplace violence education, prevention and training; SHRM creates toolkit to provide employers with resources to address the issue

Just last month, the Aurora, Ill., community made national headlines for a workplace shooting that left five people dead and several police officers injured. With workplace shootings occurring at places like Aurora, the Annapolis Capital Gazette, the Washington Navy Yard and others in recent years, it may not be surprising that roughly 1 out of 7 Americans do not feel safe at work, according to new data from SHRM—the Society for Human Resource Management—the voice of all things work.

Nearly half of HR professionals said their organization had at some point experienced a workplace violence incident at some level—up from 36 percent in 2012. And of those who reported having experienced workplace violence, over half said their organization had experienced an incident in the last year.

“Companies and HR should and must do more to make employees feel safe at work,” said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, president and chief executive officer of SHRM. “This data shows we have a lot of work to do in terms of security, prevention, training and response.”

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Unfortunately, nearly one-third of American employees and nearly 1 out of 5 HR professionals are currently unsure or don’t know what to do if they witness or are involved in a workplace violence incident.

“The goal for employers—and this is something we address in our toolkit—is making your workplace a ‘difficult’ target for violent offenders and being prepared to react quickly,” Taylor explained. “If you make the investment in security and preparation, your employees will feel safer and respect you for valuing their safety.”

And while the majority of HR professionals say their organization already provides workplace violence training to employees on how to respond to an act of workplace violence, more than one-third do not provide such training to employees. Additionally, while almost all say their company has a process for identifying employees with a history of violence, over half are unsure whether they have a workplace violence prevention program.

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According to the research, Americans understandably feel safer when employers provide prevention and training response programs. Additionally, more employees know how to react if their organization already has a workplace violence prevention and/or employee response training program.

“Education has to start from the top down, and often that starts with HR,” Taylor said. “There’s naturally a lot of fear when people think of workplace violence. But preparing and providing employees with hands-on training helps empower them to react and take action in the event of a worst-case scenario.”

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