Springfield, MO

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Workplace violence high on list of '90s worries

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by Steven Diegel

SBJ Contributing Writer

While statistics indicate that the occurrence of violence at the average Springfield workplace remains lower than other comparatively sized cities, area officials report that the Queen City does encounter its share of problems.

"Workplace violence is one of the major concerns for the '90s," said David Millsap, acting sergeant of the community policing unit for the city of Springfield.

"It is not just a case of a shooting at the post office," Millsap said. "A lot of things go on everywhere common assaults, people pushing and shoving, the threat of violence, even harassment."

According to Phyliss Travis, of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, national estimates show that 175,000 days of work are lost each year due to violence, at a cost of between $3 billion to $5 billion in lost wages, productivity, health care and insurance costs.

"A lot of all this is just domestic violence carrying over into the workplace," said Travis, also a board member of the Family Violence Center.

Locally, law enforcement officials report that numerous assaults and even one workplace-related homicide occurred last year.

Fortunately, the police department and other outside agencies can help employers both prevent workplace violence and address such violence when instances do occur. Millsap said the crime prevention unit offers seminars to advise employers and employees how to detect and deal with workplace violence.

He said a number of common indicators help detect the potential for violence or other problems in the workplace, including excessive drinking, poor work performance, poor attitude about work, and personality conflicts with others.

Another notable sign includes the presence of a weapon at the workplace ÐÐ something which should never be overlooked and requires immediate attention by management.

"That is obviously one telltale sign," Millsap said. "These are all people to be aware of."

Millsap said a good screening process remains the best way for employers to avoid problems and will help weed out potential troublemakers. Employers should be sure to check references and look carefully at the past performance of employees.

But when signs indicate the possibility of violence, management must step in and act immediately.

"When you recognize a problem, management has to step in before it escalates into a bigger problem," he said.

Awareness remains the key, Travis said.

"The more aware businesses are of this problem, the more they can see the signs and make changes," she said.

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