Nonprofit Safety Volunteer

Safety Matters: The Risk of Violence While Helping Others

While nonprofit organizations are working to help society, they are not immune to the danger of violence present in all workplaces. The risk of violence either involving an outsider or between two employees remains a serious safety and health issue—even in a nonprofit organization.

Identifying Your Risk

Although risk in nonprofit organizations depends greatly on the type of activity being performed and cannot be easily generalized, characteristics of some activities in many nonprofit and faith-based entities are particularly risky:

  • Employees/volunteers may be required to enter into high-crime areas
  • Employees/volunteers are sometimes exposed to sometimes violent, mentally unstable individuals
  • Employee’s or volunteer’s work may be socially controversial, subject to potentially violent protest
  • Working long hours with high incidence of burnout increases stress

Whether it stems from work-related disputes, domestic abuse or other personal issues, violence can occur inside or outside the workplace and can range from threats or verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide. Tempers can flare and escalate to violent behavior at any time. Violence can generally be divided into three categories:

  • Pure criminal intent
  • Client incidents, in which a client acts out violently toward an employee
  • Worker to worker/volunteer incidents stemming from work-related disputes, often involving managers or supervisors

Staying Safe

Although nothing can guarantee that you will never be a victim of violence, many incidents are preventable. Contribute to the safety measures following these guidelines:

  • Be aware of and report threatening behavior, and be alert for other signs of aggression or violent behavior.
  • Take all threats seriously, without exception.
  • Learn how to recognize, avoid or diffuse potentially violent situations by attending personal safety training programs.
  • Alert supervisors to any concerns about safety or security, and report all incidents immediately in writing.
  • Avoid traveling alone to unfamiliar locations whenever possible.

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