Employers Taking No Chances With Potential Workplace Violence

January 20, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - With workplace security concerns very much on employers' minds these days, the number of companies conducting candidate background checks has skyrocketed in the last seven years, a new poll found.

According to the survey byThe Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the number of respondents reporting they conduct criminal background checks has increased by 29% since a 1996 poll to 80%. Some 35% conduct credit checks to screen potential employees, an increase of 16% from 1996. Finally, 82% of HR professionals report their organizations investigate potential employees’ background, up from 66% in 1996.

With all that background checking going on, it’s not surprising that more than half (57%) of HR professionals confess to being somewhat or very concerned about workplace violence.

As evidence that current events are causing increased security concerns in the workforce, about one-third of HR professionals (35%) say they believe employees at their organizations have heightened concerns about workplace violence post September 11, 2001, while another 11% say their employees fret about the Iraq war.

“While employers can’t protect employees from all of the world’s ills, they certainly can take important steps to increase both the actual security of their workplaces and the sense of security for employees,” said Susan Meisinger, CEO of SHRM, in a statement. “HR professionals are often at the forefront in leading efforts to develop disaster response plans, and implement precautionary procedures such as background checking to ensure the protection of employees and business recovery following a catastrophe.”

The majority (60%) of organizations look to their HR department to develop workplace violence prevention programs to help create a safe work environment as part of the overall business strategy, the survey found.

Although the majority of HR professionals reported no change in the number of violent incidents in the workplace, 12% did report an increase in the number of such incidents, primarily incidents of vulgar language or verbal abuse. Of the HR professionals reported violent acts in their own workplace, more than 70% had occurrences between employees, 34% had employee-to-supervisor incidents and 22% had conflicts between a supervisor and an employee.

Domestic disputes continue to be a source of violence in the workplace with approximately 10% of respondents reporting girlfriend/boyfriend-to-employee incidents and an additional 10% reporting a fracas between a spouse and an employee.

To communicate the organization’s position on workplace violence, more than six in 10 said their organizations have written policies regarding weapons in the workplace, reporting incidents or threats of workplace violence and addressing violent acts in the workplace when they occur.