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Ask the HR Expert — Workforce Safety

Camille Bradbury /
Text: "Ask the HR Expert"

Q: We had a physical fight break out in our facility between customers. The owner broke up the fight. However, he doesn’t want his employees to do the same thing if this happens again. How should we advise our employees to handle violence between customers if it occurs at the workplace?

A: If you do not already have one, we would suggest having a workplace violence prevention policy. This policy should include information on how situations similar to the one that you described above should be handled. The policy should clearly state, at no time are employees expected to intervene in these situations. The manager on duty should be alerted to situations immediately and should follow these steps:

  1. First, call 911 and report the fight.
  2. Ensure that all employees and customers are safely secured away from the area.
  3. Ask the customers who are fighting to leave the facility.

You may want to consider addressing this issue in a meeting at the beginning of each shift over the next few days and reiterate that at no time is an employee to put themselves in the middle of a potentially violent situation. Be sure employees understand their safety and the safety of the customers is first and foremost.

In addition to having a workplace violence prevention policy, you may want to consider workplace violence prevention training. Finally, you may want to contact your liability insurance carrier to determine if special procedures are required and to gain insight on how they would like these situations to be handled.

Bottom Line:
Implement a workplace violence prevention policy that includes how you want your employees to handle violence between customers (or anyone else) at the facility and address this policy with employees as soon as possible after the incident has occurred. Also, contact your insurance carrier to determine if special procedures are required in your policy and get their advice on how to handle workplace violence.

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