University Police Department
University Police Department
What is workplace violence? Who is at risk? What can be done to help protect campus employees and help them protect themselves? Workplace violence attacks, such as that which occurred at the University of Arizona and elsewhere in recent years, has forced colleges and universities to address these and related questions.
Workplace violence is generally considered to be any violence or threat of violence against workers on the job or away from the work site. Acts of concern can range from verbal threats to homicides, to disruptive behaviors such as interference with or obstruction of campus functions, to behaviors that endanger the health or safety of others, including shouting, use of profanity, waving of arms or fists, or verbal abuse. Threatening acts can extend from physical actions short of personal contact to implicit threats on campus. Violent job site behaviors can include physical assaults, other acts people would believe to be potentially violent, or specific threats to inflict physical harm.
It would appear that every employee is at some risk in today's work environment for some form of violence. According to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than two million American workers were subjected to violence last year. According to the Department of Labor, those employees facing the greatest risk are those in community settings and those with extensive contact with the public.
As employers, colleges, and universities need to help educate employees on conduct that is unacceptable, what to do if they see or are victims of workplace violence, and how to protect themselves.
To the extent possible, consideration should be given to securing the work site through appropriate lighting, locking and alarm systems, video surveillance, and patrols.
Campus employees, including faculty and staff, can help to reduce the opportunities for workplace violence. They can assist in the identification of potentially violent situations and learn how to avoid or defuse the incident. They also need to understand the importance of reporting any safety or security concerns to supervisors as quickly as possible.
The campus should be alert to behaviors or attitudes that may be indicators of disruptive, threatening, or even violent behaviors. Among the behavior patterns to watch for include the following:
A pattern of attitudes can also be a warning sign. These can include the following:
Faculty and staff should be advised to watch for patterns of these behaviors and attitudes and to consult with supervisors and security staff about them.
It is important for all members of the campus community to know how to respond in the event of threats, crimes, or violence. Experts on campus safety say call for help immediately if someone:
Let the professionals respond. Professionals urge those on campus not to attempt to physically intervene or deal with the situation. Instead, they recommend getting everyone to safety and to do so as swiftly as possible.
Workplace violence should be of concern to the campus community, although the occurrence rate is statistically low. But tragedies like the attacks that occurred at the University of Arizona do serve as a reminder that no workplace is secure from all possible disruption, threats, or violence.
Be prepared. Become aware of the warning signs. Develop response. Understand and reduce the risks.
Anytime someone has crossed the line using some of the above examples, the University Police Department should be notified by calling 911. Do not attempt to handle a situation on your own. Sometimes, however, you come upon a situation that is potentially violent and you have the opportunity to calm the person down. Here are some steps that will aid in that process: