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Business 262 views Sep 13, 2018
Workplace Violence: Auto Repair Shop

Workplace violence (WPV) is defined as any act of threat of physical violence, intimidation, harassment, alongside other threatening disruptive behavior occurring in the work setting. Workplace violence is a well recognized hazard in Auto Repair Shop working environment. Nearly any type of business is currently exposed to potential workplace violence from workers, visitors, clients as well as customers. Acts that amount to workplace violence include physical assaults, threats, physical abuse, and even homicide. This paper examines how workplace violence affects operations at auto repair shop and the possible means of addressing the challenge in addition to the benefits of the latter action.

Every person deserves to have a healthy and safe working environment. However, just as other working environments, there are a number of health hazards in auto repair shops. While some of them are common ones that affect other industries, other challenges are more specific to this industry. Workers in auto repair shops are potentially exposed to different types of threats, including physical and chemical hazards. Physical hazards may include noise, repetitive stress, cutting tools, lifts, slippery surfaces due to oil and grease and other ergonomic injuries. On the other hand, chemical hazards include fillers and solvents, volatile organics from paints, metal fumes from welding, and cutting among others. Essentially, workplace safety is not limited just to protecting employees from toxic chemicals or dangerous machines; rather, it includes protecting them from violence. According to federal labor statistics, 17% of all fatal work injuries in 2013 happened as a result of violence. Moreover, OSHA has indicated that approximately 2 million workers report incidences of violence happened to them at their work places. For a long time, employers had regarded workplace violence as a random act and gave it less attention. On the contrary, workplace violence is a complex and widespread subject that is increasingly receiving attention from the public, law enforcement professionals, as well as mental health experts. Apart from paying attention to violence among coworkers, federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration currently pays closer attention to violence directed at employees by clients, customers, as well as outsiders.

Harassment at workplace occurs when an individual engages in a course of vexatious comments or conduct negatively affecting a worker in a workplace. This may include bullying, intimidating, circulating or displaying offensive pictures or materials as well as offensive jokes and intimidating or offensive phone calls. In order to eliminate these challenges, employers are using varied methods some of which yield little or no results. While some have put in place extreme physical security, others are shoring up company policies in order to address the crisis. However, workplace violence requires not just simple solution strategies due to its complexity as it often involves external pressures which have little or no relationship with job place. For instance, posting armed guards at premise entrances and making use of metal detectors may do very little to reduce workplace violence. Equally, doing nothing about workplace violence will only worsen the situation. In compliance with OSHA regulations, many organizations and corporations throughout the U.S. have currently put in place programs to help curb workplace violence. These efforts are more likely to prove worthwhile in mitigating the threats of violence at workplace.

Hazard Evaluations and Solutions

Companies dealing with automobile repairs should develop and implement prevention programs in order to address workplace violence. One of the best precautions that auto repair shop employers can offer their workers is the establishment of a zero-tolerance policy with regards to workplace violence. In order to yield good results, the policy should cover all workers, clients, suppliers as well as anyone else who may come into contact with the auto repair shop workers. Normally, employers should assess the risk of workplace violence that may arise at auto repair shops due to the industrial nature of working conditions. By assessing employees’ working environment, employers in the auto repair industry can efficiently identify viable methods to reduce the probability of workplace incidents.

The risk of assault can usually be minimized or prevented in most workplaces where risk factors can possibly be identified and appropriate precautions taken by employers. However, one challenge that exists in auto repair industry is the fact that most managers and supervisors are poorly equipped to handle the ever increasing emotional needs of their juniors. Apart from having knowledge about fair employment practices, drug abuse, and discrimination, employers and supervisors should be trained on the various ways of effectively dealing with workplace violence and the issues that trigger it. This kind of training should enable them to detect early warning signs of behaviors that border violence and how to handle them. Although problematic employees of auto repair shop owners will still have to be disciplined or dismissed, this kind of employees needs to be treated with dignity and more fairly than it used to be done in the past.

Identification of Risk Factors

Stressful working conditions normally increase the risk of workplace violence. Lately, slow economy has posed several challenges to auto repair shops that have forced some employers to downsize the number of employees. It is because several motorists are holding on their vehicles longer than usual thereby reducing work inflow. In addition, motorists who are struggling to make ends meet recommend repairs what is absolutely necessary to keep them going. Despite the danger, they are taking risks in order to spend less. According to the International Labor Organization (2014), downsizing in service sectors alongside longer hours of work, increasing workloads, and performance targets are potential stressors that can trigger a tense climate. Thus, they can increase the likelihood of workplace violence. Apart from the stressful conditions at work, working with volatile or unstable individuals or persons with a known history of violence is also a risk factor in auto repair shops.

The nature of work in auto repair shops demands interaction with clients who bring their vehicles for servicing. This normally increases the risk of violence as clients who may not be satisfied with the quality of service they receive can resort to violence thereby endangering the life of the workers. Some situations may call for the repair shop workers to attend to clients outside the designated worksite; this normally increases the chances of violence.

Developing a Workplace Violence Prevention Policy and Program

Following risk factors assessment, auto repair shop employers should ensure that they prepare a policy aimed at minimizing workplace violence, and are consequently developing and maintaining a program that would see the implementation of the policy. As in the case of other problems that are currently faced at workplaces, awareness and education alongside better communication is crucial to understanding workplace violence. Once the policy concerning workplace violence is put in place, it is important that employers provide information regarding the formed policy to all their employees. In addition, they should bring to the workers’ attention the fact that all claims surrounding workplace violence will be subjected to a thorough investigation and remedied promptly. This stipulates acceptable code of behavior and entails a fair and even-handed procedure of discipline for workers or other individuals who do not pay attention to the well-defined and articulated policies.

Usually, there exists no universal strategy for violence prevention. Therefore, various auto repair shops should always develop individual comprehensive violence prevention programs. It is because risk factors vary from one repair shop to another. Nonetheless, there are a few measures and procedures that should be incorporated in such programs. These include controlling risks that have been indentified during the risk assessment and summoning immediate assistance whenever violence arises or is likely to occur. In addition, the program should encourage employees to report incidents of workplace violence in record time. Employers should actually put in place a system where complaints are received and subjected to investigation.

Similarly, the policy should have a provision for a grievance procedure that would give a platform for the accused individuals to defend themselves. The drawn policy should be reviewed by a legal counsel for authenticity. Most importantly, a good workplace violence policy should emphasize the company’s commitment to a safe workplace as well as the need for workers to respect each other’s age, race, and gender position within the organization and national origin notwithstanding.

Awareness of indicators of violence forms an essential component of programs geared towards prevention of violence. It is important that employers understand the fact that workplace violence does not just occur at random. Instead, perpetrators of such kind of violence normally exhibit certain behaviors of concern. Having such knowledge would therefore help employers understand that they need to integrate employees in the control program in order to achieve better results. Sensitizing employees towards unusual behaviors by their colleagues and subsequent implementation of an action plan can go a long way in deescalating potentially violent situations.

There are a number of behaviors of concern that can be useful to workers in recognizing potential problems with their colleagues. For instance, if a fellow employee begins acting differently, then establishing the duration, intensity, and frequency of the new or strange or troubling behavior can be helpful in mitigating violence. Specific behaviors among employees that should increase vigilance for supervisors as well as coworkers include threats, sadness, depression, aggressive outbursts, and menacing or erratic behaviors. Others may include verbal abuse, references to weaponry, hypersensitivity to perceived slights, inability to handle criticism, jokes referring to violence, and offensive commentary among others. These behaviors are more likely to end up in violence when they are observed in clusters alongside diminished work performance. Such individuals may manifest increased absence or tardiness and decreased productivity. Meanwhile, it is important to understand that no single behavior is more effective in suggesting a possibility of violence at the workplace than the other.

In some situations, intimate partners, friends, or family members may use threats or violence against a worker. This kind of violence, also known as intimate partner violence or domestic violence, would be referred to as workplace violence if it were to take place within the auto repair shop precincts. Employers who are aware of the fact that intimate partner violence may affect their employees have to take the necessary precautions in the abovementioned circumstances to offer protection to workers at risk of physical injury.

On the other hand, domestic violence may not happen at the workplace. Rather, relationship problems such as physical or emotional abuse, separation, or divorce carried over to workplace from home may be a normal case. There are a number of signs that can reveal whether an employee is experiencing such problems. These may include disruptive calls or e-mails, unexplained bruises or injuries, poor concentration, anxiety, use of unplanned personal time, frequent absences and tardiness as well as disruptive visits of former or current partners. It is important that coworkers and supervisors take care while dealing with what can possibly escalate to charged situations.

Efficient workplace violence programs must also spell out the steps that are to be undertaken by an employer while investigating and dealing with incidents or complaint related workplace violence. When an employee is perceived to be at risk of engaging in violence, the management should take immediate action. Disgruntled employees have higher tendencies of being involved in violence at the workplace as some of them seek revenge. Workplace violence experts believe that such workers need an outlet through which they can release their frustrations alongside a pipeline to submit their grievances to the management at workplaces. If such outlets are provided, experts argue that violence triggers would perhaps be defused and thereby reduce the likelihood of workplace violence occurrence.

Benefits of Implementation of Workplace Violence Policy

Auto repair shops that establish workplace violence policy and adopt a program that ensures full implementation of the same stand to reap social as well as economic benefits. Usually, morale and productivity suffer in cases where employees are disturbed or frightened by threats of violence and violent incidences. On the contrary, a peaceful environment gives employees ample time to concentrate on their duties. Generally, a safe working environment provides for minimal injuries, reduced employee absenteeism, reduce fear and anxiety and increase of employees’ confidence regarding their work. Thus, it promotes employee productivity.

Auto repair shop is a service industry where workers interact with clients who come to have their automobiles fixed. Implementation of workplace violence policy is crucial in establishing good public relations and consequent customer retention. Otherwise, reports of violent incidents in an auto repair shop may frighten away customers and potential clients and badly affect business. Furthermore, incidence of violence will push serving employees out of the shop and restrain prospective employees from joining affected repair shops.

Reducing violence at the workplace by implementing zero-tolerance policy towards violence would ensure less disagreement among employees in the institution and promote social interaction. Since a good violence prevention policy emphasizes effective communication between workers and supervisors, its implementing will ensure a good relationship between workers and their supervisors. As a result, employees would be willing to volunteer information and feedback regarding the progress of the shop and thereby ensure effective production process.  

Workplace violence has adverse effects to auto repair shops. Therefore, it is necessary that relevant policies are put in place to enable normal operations. In essence, safety at places of work remains very critical to auto repair industry alongside other industries. Employers should no longer cling to attitudes such as “it will not happen here” and do absolutely nothing. Employers should ensure that they take adequate measures to counter the challenge. In addition, workers should be encouraged to learn about workplace violence, how to recognize behaviors and concern, and take the necessary steps. Essentially, it is possible to reduce the risk of violence in workplaces if all stakeholders will take the necessary precautions with regards to workplace violence. Our society is undergoing a rapid evolution, and we continually hope that we shall overcome this current crisis.

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