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USM’s Muskie School of Public Service launches free workplace violence prevention training

The University of Southern Maine, in collaboration with Maine Small Business Development Centers, has launched a free online program to train small business retail workers in preventing and responding to violence.

Three versions of the training will be available at The first version, which is targeted towards employers and managers, is available now. An employee-specific version will be available in May 2019 and a trainer version will be available this summer.

The Cutler Institute, a part of USM’s Muskie School of Public Service, was awarded a $116,000 OSHA grant to help create the online training. The funding is part of the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program totalling $9.3 to 74 nonprofit organizations across the country. The grants provide educational and training programs to help employees and employers recognize serious workplace hazards, implement injury prevention measures, and understand their rights and responsibilities.

“The funding provided through this Susan Harwood grant supports the development of a sustainable online training program for Maine’s small business retail workforce,” said Judy Tupper, the director of the Population Health and Health Policy Program at the Muskie School.  “We are pleased to apply our e-Learning skills to the very important topic of workplace violence and offer these training products to our community partners at no cost.”

OSHA recognizes that workplace violence is a major safety and health issue for the retail trade. Workplace violence is the 2nd leading cause of workplace fatalities in the U.S. overall and the leading cause of deaths for women. In 2016, cashiers and retail sales supervisors had the highest homicide rates of any occupation, occurring most commonly during a robbery (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017).

Employers are encouraged to train workers in safety procedures and establish workplace violence prevention programs. OSHA states that workplace violence “can occur at or outside the workplace and can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide, one of the leading causes of job-related deaths.” Adopting practical measures can significantly reduce this serious threat to worker safety.

All three versions of the training will include information on the types of violent threats in retail workplaces, including robbery, shoplifting, unwelcome walk-ins, and threats from customers or employees. Employers and employees will learn how to respond to violence or the threat of violence by reading body language and using de-escalation techniques. Employers will learn how to establish a workplace violence prevention program. The trainer version will be designed for team-based learning, including activities to identify workplace risk factors and improve safety.

The University of Southern Maine developed the training to meet the needs of the busy retail workplace. Employers may want to recommend this training to their staff as part of a workplace violence prevention plan. Employees are also welcome to enroll without their employer’s involvement. The online program is free and accessible from any computer or mobile device. Participants may login when convenient and complete the training at their own pace. After successful completion, the staff member is awarded a downloadable certificate.

For more information about the training, please contact Judy Tupper at