Environmental Health & Safety

Workplace Violence Prevention Policy


January 2013

Amherst College is concerned and committed to our faculty, staff, student and visitor’s health, safety and general well being. Therefore, the College will not tolerate any type of violence in the workplace and will make every effort to prevent violent incidents from taking place by implementing a Workplace Prevention Policy (WPVP), in accordance with the requirements of the General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Amherst College shall, as required provide the necessary funding and resources to responsible departments and personnel to assist in keeping our employees in a healthy, safe and secure working environment.

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All deans, department heads and supervisors shall be responsible for the implementation and management of the Amherst College WPVP. The College strongly encourages employee participation in the design, implementation and maintenance of our WPVP.

In as much as it is our collective responsibility to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for the entire campus, all employees, including deans, department heads, faculty, staff and their supervisors shall adhere to the work practices, policies and procedures that are designed to make the College more secure. This requirement shall include refraining from verbal threats or other physical actions that could create a security hazard for others in the workplace.

Within the last decade, workplace violence has become one of the most important health and safety issues in the United States . Each year approximately 20% of all occupational facilities across the country have been affected by workplace violence. Workplace violence has become the second leading cause of mortality for men and the primary cause for women while on the job. In addition, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released information which indicates that between 1.5 and 4 million people are assaulted at work annually. The reason for the wide margin of error is because it is probable that 50-80% of these assaults go unreported. Collectively, OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have identified a number of environmental conditions associated with workplace assaults as well as some of the control strategies that employers should be taking to better protect their employees from the acts of workplace violence. As of this date, OSHA has not yet authorized a workplace violence prevention regulation, but has indicated that each employer shall publicize a company wide policy in accordance with the requirements of the General Duty Clause, section 5(a)(1) of the OSHA Act of 1970.

Section(a)(1):"Each employer shall furnish to each of his (their) employees, employment and place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his (their) employees."

For the reasons stipulated above, and with the best interests of our faculty, staff, students and visitors in mind, Amherst College has developed, implemented and will annually review and amend as necessary a Workplace Violence Prevention Program (WPVP) for the health, safety and general well-being of our campus community.

In accordance with the regulatory requirements referenced above, and the policies to protect our faculty, staff and students, let it be known that the administration of Amherst College will not tolerate any type of workplace violence.

Workplace violence consists of prohibited behaviors that shall include, but are not limited to a physical assault, verbal or psychological abuse, threatening behavior, and/or the destruction of or damage to the property of the person associated with this institution. Amherst College will, in support of this policy, provide the necessary funding, resources and training to responsible departments and personnel to assist in the preservation of a healthy, safe and secure working environment.

It is the collective responsibility of each employee to provide a safe and healthy working environment for the entire campus. All employees, including deans, department heads, faculty, staff and supervisors shall adhere to the working practices, policies and procedures that are designed to the make the College more healthy, safe and secure. Department heads and supervisors are responsible for the implementation and management of the Amherst College WPVP, including appropriate disciplinary action, as required.

Amherst College shall, in an effort to comply with our program worplace violence, require that each and every employee provide prompt and accurate reporting of all incidents of workplace violence to the Human Resource Department at Converse Hall, regardless of whether or not physical injury has occurred. If an incident of workplace violence occurs after normal business hours, or results in serious or potential serious harm, the incident should be immediately referred to the Amherst College Police at extension 2111.

The College will take all workplace violence issues and threatening incidents seriously by investigating and taking the appropriate action to mitigate any hazard that would place any of our employees at risk. Any individual responsible for oral or written statements, gestures or expressions that communicate a threat (direct or indirect) of emotional or physical harm may be removed from the premises and may be subject to disciplinary action, termination, criminal penalties or all three, as determined by the Department of Human Resources.

Amherst College shall;

  1. Identify a campus emergency number to report incidents of workplace violence
    1. Persons affected by an incident, or know of someone who has been involved in an act of violence as referenced above shall immediately report it to the Amherst College Campus Police at (413)542-2111.
  2. Provide an incident report form for reporting cases of workplace violence
  3. Set up a Risk Assessment Team with representation from:
    1. Administration
    2. Human Resources
    3. Campus Police
    4. Public Affairs
    5. Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
    6. Management
    7. Staff
    8. Environmental Health and Safety
    9. Legal Counsel - initially and when otherwise necessary
    10. Debriefing Team - initially and when otherwise necessary
  4. Perform workplace security analysis
  5. Institute engineering controls to better protect our employees
  6. Document minutes of meetings, incident reports, workplace surveys and corrective action, and disciplinary action reports
  7. Improve hiring practices by initiating a comprehensive pre-employment screening
  8. Provide the necessary training and education
  9. Provide employee assistance and peer support programs to our employees and their families if an incident occurs
  10. Not discriminate against victim(s) of violence, regardless or method or severity.

Categories of Workplace Violence

  1. Stranger Violence - Stranger vs. employee violence which accounts for 60% of workplace homicides.
  2. Client Violence - A client of the organization attacks an employee.
  3. Employee Violence - An employee attacks another employee.

Responsibilities

Workplace violence can occur in almost every company, even at institutions of higher education, like Amherst College. In most cases, an angry customer/employee might have exchanged some angry words or uttered some idle threat to another employee about an issue or subject they will most likely forget, given a few days. Occasionally even quiet, nice, respectable "customers," or employees have been pushed to a point that resulted in an occupational injury.

Internal conditions that cause employee anger and frustration include:

  1. Changes in the economy
  2. Layoffs
  3. Insensitive terminations
  4. Overbearing managers and supervisors
  5. Pressure to increase productivity
  6. Psychological instability
  7. Financial difficulties
  8. Family abnormalities including personal or family illness
External conditionsthat might place an employee at higher risk of violence from a customer might include:
  1. Working alone and/or at night
  2. Exchange of money with the public
  3. Guarding valuable property
  4. Working with the public
Prevention:

In order to best protect the faculty, staff, students and visitors of Amherst College from an incident of "workplace violence", we need to

    1. Recognize the warning signs
    2. Reduce the risk, if possible
    3. Know how to respond appropriately
    4. Respond
Warning signs include
  1. Direct threats, such as
    "I'll get even with you"
  2. Implied threats
    "This place would not function if the main computer shut down"
  3. Conditional threats
    "If they fire me, there will be hell to pay."
  4. Other signs include
    1. Unusually argumentative behaviors
    2. Lack of cooperation with others
    3. Problem with authority or person of the opposite sex
    4. Bizarre behavior
    5. Increased dependency on alcohol or drugs
    6. History of violence
    7. Changes in work patterns (i.e. out sick frequently)
    8. Blames others for personal problems
    9. Numerous conflicts with coworkers or supervisor
    10. Aggressive behavior
    11. Discussing or displaying weapons in the workplace
    12. Fascination with past workplace violence incidents
    13. Statements indicating desperation or planned suicide over personal problems
  5. These signs could be an indication that something is wrong, and should be reported to Human Resources immediately. They should not be ignored.

In accordance with the requirements of this policy, and in order to better protect the campus community from potential harm and violence, Amherst College shall mandate that any weapon capable or causing bodily harm at a time and place that manifests an intent to harm or intimidate another person or warrants alarm for personal safety is prohibited.
Exception: Employees of the College, town, state or federal government who are engaged in law enforcement activities.

Reporting Procedures

  1. Amherst College requires faculty, staff, students and visitors to report any incident of workplace violence, verbal or physical, to your supervisor, the Amherst College Campus Police, Human Resources or a member of the Risk Assessment Team. Amherst College shall not discipline a reporting party, unless the accusation was made maliciously and without credibility.

Although incidents of workplace violence can be initially reported verbally (by phone or in person), they shall later be documented in writing and will be confidentially held by the office of Human Resources.

Amherst College Responsibilities

In order to best address actual issues of workplace violence or the incidents that could cause or increase the risk of actual violence, the College has established a system which includes immeduate response and documentation.

It is the intent of this standard operating guideline to show the College community that there is no tolerance mandated for workplace violence at Amherst College. Threats should never be ignored, even if the witness or person threatened feels that the incident may resolve itself, or out of fear of retribution by the person who initiated the threat.

Amherst College shall require that each and every employee provide prompt and accurate reporting of all incidents of “workplace violence” to the campus police, regardless of whether or not physical injury has occurred. The College will take all violent and threatening incidents seriously by investigating and taking the appropriate action to mitigate any hazard that would place any of our employee(s) at risk. Amherst College shall take all the necessary steps to help with employee assistance and peer support policies if an incident occurs, and will not discriminate against any victims of workplace violence, regardless of method.

A copy of the Amherst College Workplace Violence Prevention Policy is available to all employees either on-line at www.amherst.edu or through the office of Human Resources, 201 Converse Hall at 542-2372.

Click here to take the Workplace Violence Assessment