How to Create a Workplace Violence Plan

Many of us think of the holiday season as a time of love, peace, and joy —when everyone is happy and treats others with kindness. It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of year. It can be. However, it can also be a time of stress, frustration, misunderstanding, friction, and violence. It is believed that violence increases during the holidays. This might be true for several reasons. People may get less sleep, causing them to be crankier than usual. Tempers may flare. People may drink more alcohol at social gatherings causing them to abandon normal inhibitions. People often experience more financial difficulties during holidays with expected gift-giving and higher prices for food and other necessities. The reasons for situations that might lead to violence can be endless. 

This violence can spill over into the workplace. This includes the library workplace. Threats can arise from various avenues. Library patrons can come to the library with mental health issues and pose a danger to other patrons and staff. Individual library staff could face domestic abuse/violence at home and have significant others show up at the library. There may be increased pressure at work, causing library workers to have animosity against co-workers or supervisors. Any or all these types of situations could lead to workplace violence. Studies indicate that, in general, the occupations with the highest risk of workplace violence include any that interact with the public. This puts library workers in the ‘line of fire.’ 

Given the fact that mass shootings are occurring more often in places of employment, employers should pay attention. Although we’ve been talking about violence around the holidays, it’s apparent that it can happen any time of year. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 392 workplace homicides in 2020. There were also 37,060 nonfatal injuries in the workplace resulting from an intentional injury by another person. When looking at educational instruction and libraries as an occupational group, the BLS reports 5,470 nonfatal injuries in the workplace resulting from an intentional injury by another person. These numbers suggest that employers need to consider the probability of violence occurring in their workplaces as a genuine possibility. 

Employers must be prepared to manage crises effectively to minimize injury and fatalities if an incident occurs. This article discusses some things to consider when formulating workplace violence plans. It asserts that having a workplace violence plan could help employers reduce the chance of missing warning signs (that might be present in employees) and may also help limit the risk of legal liability. The optimal time to put plans in place is before something detrimental happens. According to the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employers are responsible for providing a safe working environment. Employers can do this by having plans before they are needed and ensuring staff is thoroughly trained so everyone knows what to do in a violent situation. Employers should analyze their worksites, determine what needs to be done to secure the worksite, put a plan in place, and share it with staff, then practice, practice, practice.