Violence: What You Can Do About It
See also: http://www.safety.queensu.ca/violence/
What is workplace violence?
Taber, Alberta; Littleton, Colorado; Ecole Polytechnic; Concordia University: all of these educational institutions have suffered workplace violence in its rarest and most extreme form - homicide.
There are also other forms of workplace violence that are much more commonplace and are experienced here at Queen's and at every other College and University in Canada. These include assault, sexual assault, verbal abuse, harassment, suicide, attempt to injure, threat of injury, intimidation and coercion. Basically, workplace violence is any act that results in threatened or actual harm to people or property in the workplace. All such acts leave trauma and fear in their wake.
Since the workplace often includes clients, the students at educational institutions are deemed to be part of the workplace as they are in fact clients of the institution.
What is the scope of the problem?
The following statistics give some idea of the prevalence of violence in the workplace.
July 1998 report on workplace violence by the International Labour Organization compiled from 130,000 interviews:
- Canada ranks 4th out of 32 countries for the number of women assaulted in the workplace
- Canada ranks 5th for the number of men assaulted in the workplace
- Canadian women report the 4th highest incidence of sexual harassment in the workplace
1994 CUPE survey on workplace violence compiled from 2134 respondents:
- 70% of workers experienced verbal aggression
- 40% were struck
- 30% were grabbed or scratched
20 people are murdered at work every week in the USA. Workplace homicides are the leading cause of death for women in the workplace and the second leading cause of death for men in the workplace. The incidence of workplace homicides in Canada is much less, but the reported incidence of other forms of violence is higher.
60% of homicides are committed by strangers to the workplace; 30% by clients and 10% by employees. However, strangers commit only 24% of other types of workplace violence, while clients commit 44% and employees commit 30%.
What are some of the reasons for the prevalence of workplace violence?
Some factors are societal or personal in nature such as the prevalence and glorification of violence in our society, drug or alcohol abuse, reaction to family stress, poverty, domestic violence or access to deadly weapons. It should be noted that access to firearms is much more strictly controlled in Canada.
Others are workplace related. They include:
Finally, some types of jobs are more at risk of violence than others, for a number of reasons. They include jobs that:
Can workplace violence be anticipated?
In almost all cases, incidents of workplace violence are preceded by a number of warning signs. Some are very overt and clear, some are more subtle. They include:
Each of these behaviours is a clear sign that something is wrong. None should be ignored.
Can workplace violence be prevented?
The short answer is no; there is no foolproof way to completely prevent violence in the workplace, or anywhere else. However, there are a number of preventative measures that can be taken to significantly reduce the risk of violence in your workplace.
1. Conduct a threat assessment for your work, study or living area. This can be done with the help of Campus Security, or by using your own common sense and consulting the variety of personal security measures applicable to a variety of work or study related situations that are outlined in "Safety Tips". The assessment should take into account risk factors (as listed above), physical security measures in place, policies and procedures in the workplace, especially dealing with hiring and managing employees and workplace culture. It should identify security measures that can reduce risk.
2. Implement appropriate security measures. These could include:
- physical security measures (CCTV, alarms, electronic access systems, improved lighting, emergency telephones, photo ID badges, public/private office areas, guards or natural barriers such as counters)
- procedural or behavioural changes (pre-employment screenings, use of administrative and disciplinary sanctions when warranted, use of employee escorts, not propping doors open, ensuring someone is responsible every night to arm alarms, locking your room or office etc.)
- employee/student training (awareness of policy, awareness of warning signs, awareness of risk factors and how to mitigate them and knowledge of how to react and what to do in a violent situation. It is also helpful to acquire stress management and conflict resolution skills to help you diffuse potentially violent situations. Human Resources offers courses and has a number of good videos and publications on these topics. The list is published three times a year in News and Notes)
What do I do if faced with a violent or a potentially violent situation?If you notice a colleague, student or co-worker exhibiting some or all of the above behaviours, report it to your unit head, your unit safety officer or Campus Security immediately. It is not your responsibility to determine if there is a real threat, or to provide counseling or assistance to the individual. It is, however, your responsibility to report it so that the qualified professionals at Queen's can assess and deal with the situation. If violence is imminent or actually occurring, report the details to Campus Security immediately at 36111.
Specifically, if someone is angry or hostile:
If someone is swearing, shouting and threatening:
If someone is threatening you with a weapon:
If you are a supervisor or unit head and you are informed that someone is exhibiting some of the warning signs listed above:
The most effective way of protecting yourself from workplace violence is to recognize the warning signs and report every incident, no matter how minor, so that immediate action can be taken to address the situation. Dismissing them as bravado may cost lives. Campus Security will listen to your concerns and will take appropriate action.
Queen's Policy Against Campus Violence
Queen's University Weapons Policy
Page last update: 10 January 2000