Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 25th 2014 Contents The perception is that over
the years there has been
an increase in crime in
Trinidad and Tobago.
Whether this is statisti-
cally true or not is a mat-
ter for our National Secu-
rity People to manage.
What I do know however, is that many of our
citizens have been seeing and feeling the impact
of crime, theft and violence in our commu-
nities. Now this scourge is rapidly spreading
into our workplaces.
The Occupational Health and Safety Author-
ity (OSHA), United States Department of
Labour, has this to say: "Workplace violence
is violence or the threat of violence against
workers. It can occur at or outside the work-
place and can range from threats and verbal
abuse to physical assaults and homicide, one
of the leading causes of job-related deaths.
However it manifests itself, workplace violence
is a growing concern for employers and
I ask this question: is our workplace immune
from violence? We have seen over the years
that there are many incidents of theft, sexual
assault, shootings and even domestic violence
creeping into the workplace. We must begin
to ask ourselves and our co-workers the fol-
lowing questions: what are the types of work-
place violence and how do we recognise the
According to Michael Staver, a corporate
and executive coach, employees should watch
for the following signs:
• Excessive complaining or whining: this
can be the first signal that a colleague has had
a triggering event that might escalate to anger
and violence, especially if he is usually content
• Withdrawal: a co-worker who completely
retreats into his/her shell could be demon-
strating that he/she is having trouble coping.
• Variation from typical behaviour: if your
colleague is usually reserved and introverted,
and suddenly starts chattering and socializing,
or if an extrovert retreats and grows silent,
that can be a signal that something is wrong.
• Obsessive thought patterns or conversa-
tions: if an employee starts ranting against
"the machine" or talking incessantly about
the unfairness of the world, it could be a warn-
• Dramatic and unreasonable demands:
when a worker becomes impatient and insists
on an immediate response when he knows a
task takes time, like a manager who demands
to see the CEO immediately, such behaviour
could demonstrate that he is troubled.
• Personal insults: if an otherwise respectful
colleague flies off the handle and attacks, that
can mean his anger is building.
• Threats: it may seem obvious, but Staver
says this is the most potent sign that violence
could occur. If your co-worker starts saying,
specifically, that he wants to hurt someone,
that s a red flag, he says, especially if the person
expresses a plan, the intent to carry it out,
and the means to see it through.
These are all real issues that we see playing
off in our offices, and therefore, we can no
longer pretend that these would not escalate
into violence. We must be proactive and exe-
cute the necessary steps for our employees,
in order to prevent or manage violence if and
when it happens.
To control the risk of violence in the work-
place, we must first seek to understand the
types of workplace violence that could com-
promise employee safety. These are:
• Criminal intent: The person carrying out
the crime has no legitimate relationship to the
business or its employees and is usually com-
mitting a crime in conjunction with the vio-
lence. These crimes can include robbery,
shoplifting, assault, trespassing, and terrorism.
• Customer or client: The offender has a
legitimate relationship with the business and
becomes violent while being served by the
business. This category includes customers,
clients, patients, students, inmates, and any
other group for which the business provides
services. It is believed that a large portion of
customer/client incidents occur in the health-
care industry in settings such as nursing homes
or psychiatric facilities; the victims are often
patient caregivers. Police officers, flight atten-
dants, and teachers are other examples of
workers who may be exposed to this kind of
• Worker-on-worker: The perpetrator is an
employee or past employee who attacks or
threatens another employee(s) or past employ-
ee(s) in the workplace.
• Personal relationship: The perpetrator, at
most times, does not have a relationship with
the business but has a personal relationship
with the intended victim. This category
includes victims of domestic violence, assault
or being threatened while at work.
By understanding these four main types of
workplace violence, we can think through the
measures we need to adopt to prevent them.
According to OSHA, establishing a zero tol-
erance policy on violence in the workplace is
one of the best ways to protect employees.
The Human Resource Manager should for-
mulate a Policy, which should be printed as
an Employee Handbook. This must be given
to all employees, and at the Orientation Session
for new employees, this policy must be clearly
communicated to ensure that everyone under-
stand their role.
Additional measures employers can institute
are not limited to but can include the follow-
• Provide safety education for employees
so they know what conduct is not acceptable,
what to do if they witness or are subjected to
workplace violence, and how to protect them-
• Secure the workplace. Where appropriate
to the business, install video surveillance, extra
lighting, and alarm systems and minimize
access by outsiders through identification
badges, electronic keys, and guards.
• Provide drop safes to limit the amount of
cash on hand. Keep a minimal amount of cash
in registers during evenings and late night
• Equip field staff with cellular phones and
hand-held alarms or noise devices, and require
them to prepare a daily work plan and keep
a contact person informed of their location
throughout the day. Keep employer provided
vehicles properly maintained.
• Instruct employees not to enter any loca-
tion where they feel unsafe. Introduce a "buddy
system" or provide an escort service or police
assistance in potentially dangerous situations
or at night.
• Develop policies and procedures covering
visits by home healthcare providers. Address
the conduct of home visits, the presence of
others in the home during visits, and the work-
er s right to refuse to provide services in a
clearly hazardous situation.
In closing, it is the duty of every one of us
to do our part in preventing violence in the
workplace. It is imperative that we demon-
strate a sense of caring and understanding
towards our colleagues. Cultural anthropologist
Margaret Mead emphasises the importance of
each person s contribution. "Never doubt that
a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens
can change the world. Indeed, it is the only
thing that ever has."
Nashroon Mohammed, BA (Hons), Dip
LC, CCC, CLTMC is a workplace coach and
a member with International Coach Feder-
SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt MAY 25 • 2014
Is your workplace prepared for violence?
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