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Workplace Violence Prevention for California Nonprofits

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Workplace violence prevention for California nonprofits.

California nonprofits employ 10% of California’s workforce. Approximately 1.7 million people. They provide critical services to communities in need.

But, when it comes to workplace violence prevention, employees of California nonprofits face some significant safety challenges.

Many nonprofits provide services within communities where violence occurs. And their employees themselves, work within the community and not just at their workplace. And today’s political climate has turned some nonprofit employees into targets themselves. (Type 1 workplace violence).

Nonprofits face different types of workplace violence safety hazards depending upon the types of services they provide, and the people they serve. Some provide services to those going through difficult emotional, financial, and familial challenges, and often provide those services in their clients’ homes. (Type 2-invitee workplace violence).

Women make up about 75% of the nonprofit workforce, which lessens, but not completely eliminates the risks of co-worker on co-worker violence (Type 3 workplace violence).

But, with that higher percentage of female employees, the risk of domestic violence incidents spilling over into the workforce increases. (Type 4 workplace violence).

In this piece, I discuss what nonprofit employers and managers need to focus on when developing an effective workplace violence prevention plan and program as required under California’s new workplace violence prevention law.

I learned first hand about the devastating effects of violence, how it occurs, and how it can be prevented, through 30 years of conducting civil and criminal litigations investigations into violent incidents on behalf of attorneys, and while conducting internal fact-finding investigations for employers regarding workplace violence, threats, and harassment.

California’s new workplace violence prevention law goes into effect on July 1. It covers the vast majority of employers, employees, and workplaces. My free California workplace violence prevention checklist can help you get started on your prevention plan. Download it here

Assessing Safety Hazards

Developing and implementing a violence prevention plan starts with determining the workplace violence safety hazards that are specific to your employees. These assessments should be made relative to the safety threats they face from the four source types of workplace violence.

Each workplace violence source type brings its own unique safety threats and requires different approaches to identifying and remediating those specific safety threats. Here’s where to begin:

  •  Start by surveying, or interviewing, employees about their safety concerns, incidents they’ve experienced or witnessed, including near misses—situations that didn’t progress to a violent incident, but could have—and what changes they think will lessen the risk to those threats.
  •  Assess the physical premises of the workplace, interior and exterior, parking areas, and walkways for lighting, ingress and egress, hiding places, and other factors that can increase safety risks. Determine whether you or a landlord if there is one, is responsible for maintaining a safe environment. And for employees that work in the community, or in clients’ homes, you’ll have to get the best sense from your employees of the areas where they’re working, and who they may encounter while there.
  •  Develop an approach to remediate the identified safety hazards created by the environment and the people within it.

Strategies to Avoid Physical Harm from Workplace Violence 

Once hazards are identified, you’ll need to assess any current education and training approaches you take to help employees avoid physical harm from workplace violence and how they relate to the safety hazards your employees face. And then determine the strategies you’ll need to implement in order to educate and train your employees on how to avoid physical harm from those workplace violence safety hazards. Some strategies to consider include:

  •  Communication approaches to convey the existence of safety threats.
  •  Situational awareness and de-escalation training.
  •  The buddy system.
  •  Personal safety and self-defense skills.
  •  Incident response team members.
  •  Parking area safety.

Workplace Violence Complaint and Investigation Systems

Review your current workplace violence complaint and investigation process to ensure that it can address each of the four source types of workplace violence. Some questions to ask about your process include:

  •  Do your employees know exactly who violence complaints should be brought to?
  •  Are complaints brought forward in writing with clear instructions?
  •  Are there contingencies in the complaint and investigation process should the alleged incident involve a manager or other person of authority?
  •  Is there a clearly defined and standardized investigation process?
  •  Is the person responsible for investigations trained in conducting investigations?
  •  Do you have a standardized approach to reporting on the investigation, its findings, and recommendations to ensure that decision makers are fully informed?

Workplace Violence Incident Log

 Do you maintain a workplace violence incident log where the relevant information regarding any incident that occurs is documented? If not, you’ll need to create one. Here’s some of the basic information you’ll want to include in the incident log:

  •  The circumstances surrounding the incident, including the time of the incident, the number of employees present, and identify the relationship of the source for the violence to the restaurant.
  •  The factors that led to the incident.
  •  Details regarding the incident itself.
  •  Who was notified.
  •  The response to the incident, and who was involved in that response.
  •  The results of any investigation.
  •  The resulting outcome of the investigation and response to the incident.
  •  Do not include medical information, or information that identifies specific individuals to protect the privacy rights of those involved beyond.

Training and Implementation

 You’ll also need to develop a training program that trains employees in the workplace violence prevention plan, their responsibilities, and roles, as well as in safety approaches to help keep them safe from physical harm.  Employee training should include:

  •  Recognizing workplace violence hazards specific to their jobs.
  •  Effective procedures to respond to actual or potential workplace violence emergencies.
  •  Effective means to alert employees about workplace violence emergencies.
  •  Evacuation and sheltering plans.
  •  How to obtain help from staff assigned to respond to workplace violence incidents.
  •  How to seek assistance to prevent or respond to violence.
  •  Strategies to avoid physical harm from violence. This training is critical for employee safety. Because it ensures employees are protected from harm even when other practices fail.

And you’ll need to develop an implementation process to ensure that all of the different required actions are completed. Areas to implement include:

  •  Active employee involvement in the workplace violence prevention process.
  •  Employee surveys and interviews to identify workplace violence safety hazards.
  •  Workplace violence safety hazard inspections and corrections.
  •  Complaint and investigation process.
  •  Preventing retaliation and ensuring accountability throughout all processes.
  •  Workplace violence incident log.

Have questions about your workplace violence prevention program, send me an email. We can discuss where you are at in developing your program and what approaches you can take to ensure you get an effective workplace violence prevention program up and running. 

California's new workplace violence prevention law is serious about protecting employees. Want help implementing your plan?

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