Agricultural Safety Program
Reducing the risks in the agricultural workplace!
Violence in the Workplace:
A Common Sense Approach to Prevention
(Summary of Safety Breakfast Meeting held Wednesday, April 8, 1998)
WAR IN THE WORKPLACE
Is your company turning into a battlefield? Are violent incidents between employees becoming
routine? Probably not, and that's great, noted Alan Scott, featured speaker at a recent Safety
Breakfast Meeting at California State University, Fresno. But specialists in the field of
workplace violence warn that incidents are increasing. In just one recent year in the U.S., for
example, there were more than 110,000 reports of violent incidents, resulting in 750 deaths and
$4 billion in lost production and legal fees.
After just one incident of violence, Scott warned, the atmosphere in a workplace can be changed
dramatically. For example, after a violent incident such as a screaming or shoving match between
two employees, morale in the work area can plummet, and bring production down along with it.
The good news is that employers can do something about it, said Scott, who works as branch
manager for American Protective Services, a national firm specializing in workplace security.
Scott provided an outline of steps companies can take during a recent Safety Breakfast Meeting
hosted by the Center for Agricultural Business (CAB). Safety breakfast meetings are held
monthly and address current safety issues faced by employers in the agricultural and
PRO-ACTIVE APPROACHES HELP PREVENT VIOLENCE
It is the business of Scott's firm to help companies develop policies and programs that will help
prevent violent confrontations in the workplace. Prevention strategies can't guarantee the peace,
but they can greatly reduce the likelihood of such an incident occurring, Scott said.
An initial understanding of three key concepts will enable an employer to effectively address the
problem of workplace violence, Scott said. They are as follows:
Knowledge - Company leaders must understand the potential for violence in their
Liability - Leaders must be aware that legal sanctions or lawsuits can come as a result
of violent incidents.
Financial - A violent incident will inevitably lead to one kind of financial loss or
DEVELOPING A POLICY APPROACH
Once the key concepts of workplace violence are understood, company leaders will see the need
to develop a policy approach of violence prevention. Elements of an effective violence prevention
plan include the following:
1.Policies - Develop a comprehensive, workable plan, a "living" document; have legal
council review to avoid legal issues after the fact.
2.Major players - Determine composition of the response team: should include a
company officer, human resources manager, industrial physiologist, and emergency
3.Coordination - Major players should understand and support each other's roles.
4.Training - Learn to identify danger signals; ignoring warning signs only increases the
strength of the violator and violence potential.
5.Tests - Mock drills will enhance response team's reaction and intervention skills
6.Discipline - Swift disciplinary action can diffuse current and future problems
7.Parameters - Understand your work force and develop policies to serve workplace
SPOTTING THE SIGNALS OF POTENTIAL VIOLENCE
Learning to identify the signals of potential violence among employees is a key to preventing the
violent incident. Following are some of the signs to watch for and some of the issues that can
affect a worker's behavior:
Use of controlled substances
Use of alcohol
Sudden change to poor work habits
Out of character actions
PRACTICAL PREVENTION SYSTEMS
There are a number of simple, concrete steps an employer can take to prevent violent situations
from occurring. Many of these involve simple controls over the interaction of employees and
non-employees. Following are some suggested methods of controls:
5.Electronics - alarms, closed-circuit TV, door controls
6.Identification systems - photo and color coordinated
7.Office entrance restrictions
10.Secure areas (safe rooms)
While efforts designed to prevent violent confrontations at the workplace do not guarantee they
will not occur, they can greatly reduce the chances, Scott reiterated. Considering the costs if it
were to happen should encourage most employers to take at least some steps toward prevention.
One of those steps could be to consult American Protective Services or another company
offering similar services. American Services is headquartered in Oakland, California and has a
branch office in Fresno.
UPCOMING SAFETY BREAKFAST MEETING
The next Safety Breakfast Meeting hosted by the Center for Agricultural Business will be
Wednesday, May 13, 1998, from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. in the CATI Conference Room at the
California Agricultural Technology Institute, 2910 E. Barstow Ave., Fresno.
Discussion topic will be "A Review of the New NIOSH Respirator Standards." Speakers will be
Mike Castro, sales representative for the Moldex Co., and Ken McCollum, regional sales
manager for Jorgensen & Co. Persons planning to attend are asked to RSVP to CAB at (559)