There is increased awareness about preventing violence in the workplace. For example Worksafe BC has introducted new legislation around violence prevention for Late Night Retail outlets. Violence prevention is also a focus in the health care industry, public transportation, public sector and internally in large companies.
Safety programs have traditionally looked at violence prevention as preventing robbery or physical attacks in the workplace. The recent ‘Grant’s Law’ takes this approach. How can we prevent workers at late night retail stores and gas stations from being harmed in a robbery?
Robbery is very real threat with high potential for physical harm to a worker and to the public and should be taken seriously. Setting up a store layout to minimize robbery is important. Establishing safety measures such as pre-pay for fuel is also important. However, it is only part of the picture.
What about the interactions between worker and client that have the potential to escalate into violence? Take the example of workers who come into conflict with the public during customer service. “What’s taking you so long?” “You ran outta…!” “What do you mean, I can’t….?” Throughout the day, workers are faced with verbal threats and aggressive communication. A worker needs training in communication techniques to effectively deal with this type of communication.
Communication techniques that diffuse the potential for violence can prevent incidents. Workers need to be trained how to be assertive without triggering aggression. Often violence prevention training focuses on self-defense. The greatest defense is to prevent attack by de-escalating the situation. Companies can focus on empowering their workers to know how to handle a situation. No physical barriers, security cameras, or security personel can protect workers from verbal threats. A worker must rely on the ability to communicate effectively. Investing in communication training is a critical part of a violence prevention program.