Taking Measures to Avoid Workplace Violence

A look at how Wisconsin businesses are using technology and employee training to avoid violence

The company mandated the use of Microsoft Outlook's calendar function to track each employee's location to keep an accurate headcount in the event of fire, tornado or other natural disaster. McLean also implemented a "no employee alone" policy so that at no time were any of the employees on the premises alone during business hours.

In light of a rash of sexual assaults that have hit the Milwaukee area recently, "we decided to make the commitment to our employees to ensure their physical safety," McLean said. "As a human resources professional at Inacom, I can state without hesitation that our greatest assets are our people. Inacom will do anything that we can do to promote a safe, employee-friendly environment," he said.

Work with police

Copps Food Stores, a division of Milwaukee-based Roundy's Supermarkets, uses several methods to maintain a safe environment for both customers and employees.

"We have well-trained and committed security personnel on hand at our stores. Some are Roundy's employees, others are contracted from outside the company to provide this service in some of our stores," said Vivian King, director of public affairs at Roundy's. Copps uses closed-circuit TV to monitor the stores inside and out as well as burglar alarms. Copps also fosters a close relationship with the police departments in each of the communities in which the stores are located, which according to King is crucial to their security procedures. "We work together with local law enforcement officers when necessary to make sure customers and employees are safe. Our local police departments alert us to any trends they are seeing that could affect our stores. Likewise, we alert them to any trends we see that may threaten our store environment. When customers and employees arrive at a Copps store, they expect it to be safe and secure for shopping and working. It is imperative that we take the necessary steps to ensure that we maintain a positive environment," King said.

Green Bay-based Associated Banc-Corp, with several Capital Region Associated Bank locations, has experienced eight bank robberies during 2006 at their Madison-area locations. Sixteen bank robberies have occurred at Madison-area banks including the Associated Banks in 2006.

Associated Bank's South Central Regional President, David Stein, said employee and customer security is one of the company's top priorities.

"We take every precaution possible," he said, "including comprehensive employee training and the use of the latest in technology."

Get training

Training employees to handle emergency situations is also essential in ensuring the safety and security of employees. However, well over 70 percent of the respondents to the Department of Labor survey reported that they did not have a formal policy in place to address workplace violence.

Where can businesses get training? The Understanding and Preventing Workplace Violence seminar for businesses is available through the UW-Madison Police Department, located on Monroe Street. The two-hour program taught by police officers is free and can be customized to your business. The seminar is conducted at the police station or on location.

"We have learned through experience and testimony that many have found themselves as a victim or witness in a workplace violence incident; however, not all have shared those experiences," said Sergeant Ben Newman, training, recruitment and crime prevention officer from the UW Police Department. Newman has coordinated the seminar for the past 4 years, teaching staff at the UW campus, UW Hospital, the UW Foundation and other off-campus businesses.

The program discusses the definition of workplace violence, defines employees' role in safety and identifies potential threats. "So many staff members on campus and in other businesses go to work every day and do not think about workplace violence until an incident occurs," Newman said. "Training programs in prevention methods are under-utilized nationwide," he added.

What is workplace violence?

Workplace violence is defined in the Survey of Workplace Violence Prevention, 2005*, as violent acts directed toward a person at work or on duty, such as physical assaults, threats of assault, harassment, intimidation or bullying.

Workplace violence is classified in the survey as four types of situations: