Can workplace Violence happen…at home?

Written By: Robert D. Sollars

“My people aren’t even here for me to protect. They’re working at home! I can’t be responsible for their safety & security when they’re not even here! That’s bot y job, they’re responsible for their own protection while they’re at home. We can’t afford to have security and buy stuff for every single employee while working at home! Holy Crap. That’ll bankrupt us!” so says a General Manager at a fictional midwestern town in a fictional facility…but an all-too-common approach to the current working conditions for 60% of the remote workforce according to Honeywell.

To most people, including many managers and business owners of small businesses that allow them to work from home. But isn’t it true, do they not have an obligation to protect their employees, working anywhere, permanent to temporary, from safety & security risks?

The succinct answer is rather simple…YES, they do. Paraphrasing OSHA “employers have a general duty to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm, and that for OSHA, the term workplace is synonymous with on-the-job and at work.

In essence, if they are working at home, then the employer is obligated to provide safety & security for their employees because they’re working for the benefit of the employer, despite the location. Just like they are obligated to provide internet service, computers, and office equipment for them to do their jobs, the employer has the same obligation to protect them there as well. What does this mean for the employer? They aren’t gonna like it very much.

Workplace violence (WPV) is a perpetual threat to all employees since they receive the brunt of the assaults, and employers for the costs of replacing, repair, and reputation of the company. What has changed, however, is where the work is occurring and the threat of WPV in that location.

WPV occurs “…happening to Anyone…Any Time… Anywhere… For any Reason”. I’ve used this line, in various forms for the past 29 years, and it’s truer now than it ever was during the deadliest time of WPV in the 80s & 90s.

It literally can happen to an employee at any time, in any place, and in this case where ever the employee’s office happens to be; at-home, on-the-road, job sites, or even a fast-food place. If collateral damage is done during an assault, such as family members being injured or killed, it all falls on the employer to accept responsibility for the incident. Organizations that require employees to work from home have by extension created a workplace at their employee’s residences, which in any litigation will become critical.

While it may be the employee’s residence, the employer has now turned it into the workplace for their benefit and of their employees. As such, employer duty of care and workplace security, including the risk of violence, shift from the employer to the residence.

Now, as an employer, you may be thinking that the safety & security of an employee will begin when they enter the door, or dedicated parking lot. In this case, you’re absolutely 1,000% wrong when it comes to remote workers. An employee working from home has the same responsibilities and requirements as anyone working from the main site…except the safety of security equipment and adequate physical barriers.

These barriers, programs, prevention methods, and safeguards are generally not available to lower-level employees as they are for top-ranked executives, being much more minimal for employees sometimes limited to simply locking the doors & windows. Executives will have the best systems that money can buy…remember Colonel Oliver North in 1988? As a Marine Corp. Colonel had a private 10-acre estate and a $10,000 alarm system, which may be very typical for most senior-level executives and entrepreneurs.

Since we’re discussing WPV, will those protections extend to family members, visitors, or others who may be in the house at the time an assault occurs. Is the employer willing to take on the responsibility of a family member being murdered at home during a WPV incident? They should be prepared, as it will legally fall to them if an incident does occur.

For employees working from home, the violence they could expect is as traditional as you’ll see it on a job site;

Relationships between co-workers

Customers

Visitors

Vendors

Should we even think about the traditional threats, not forgetting the other people in the household…

Siblings

Parents

Significant others

Children

Demanding pets.

As you already know, these people can also be abusers with verbal or physical threats & violence themselves…which they won’t care if the employee is working or not. can realistically occur at home as well as official work-site;

Firearms

Fists

Heavy objects

Verbal

Include every other single type that on-site WPV would entail, and the threat from anyone on-site is bad enough but when having to work with them around the employee/victim?

The problem is that these incidents are never recorded as such by the media, law enforcement, or OSHA. Rather they are only noted when a private company like Honeywell or Allied-Universal conducts the research. Many will say they are self-serving. That may be to a certain extent, but if you don’t remember…the University of South Florida reported 15 years ago that there more than 15 million incidents of WPV every single year, and OSHA only recorded 2 million incidents a year.

Think about those numbers and the disparities when protecting employees while they’re at home working, or ignoring their security needs while working for YOU at home.

It happens to Anyone…Any Time… Anywhere… For any Reason

I May Be Blind, but My Vision Is Crystal Clear

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Copyright 2021 Robert D. Sollars

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