How confident are you really with your Workplace Violence Prevention initiative?
Another Workplace Shooting, Friday, February 16, 2019 at the Henry Pratt Company, Aurora, IL. It’s been about 3 weeks since this shooting and I worry that there will be another. You want to know why? Simply because employers really believe that “termination” is the solution to the “disgruntled problem employee”. Managers do not lead, they create – yes, they create resentment and hostility by the unintended consequences of their actions.
How many organizations have protocols in place for “terminations”? Is there a process that attempts to salvage rather than to discard? Are these “problem employees” treated with dignity and respect or like they are easily replaceable? Do managers rely on a stroke of the pen to eliminate the problem? And does control and cockiness influences their “false sense of security”? to believe that deletion of their “access privileges” will prevent the re-entry into the workplace at a date and time of their choice? The only “workplace security mindset” they may have is the one that says we can call the police if the employee gets out of line. This mentality does not lead to a healthy police-workplace relationship.
Just because employers do not have protocols or processes in place doesn’t mean the disgruntled current or former employee doesn’t have a plan of their own. Stop assuming! Could it be that every time the separated employee returned to address a separation issue, to meet with the union representative or to correct compensation disputes the “problem employee” was in fact developing his own “risk assessment plan”? When employers mistreat the employee they actually plant the seed that germinates in their hearts and minds that rationalizes and justifies their anger. Failure to address the “problem employee’s” issues or management’s reluctance to deal effectively with the situation fuels the anger and waters the seeds of justification and rationalization.
While the anger may not result in “shooting up the workplace or the school place” the disgruntled employee can sabotage your operations, machinery or systems; call in false fire alarms and bomb threats; vandalize personal property like cars and do much more despicable acts that “satisfies their urge to get even. I have been involved such despicable acts of retaliation in the past. What about the victim of bullying who doesn’t see any resolution and decides to take matters into their own hands? Sound familiar? If it does, it reminds me of the student who resorts to violence.
Gary Martin, the alleged Henry Pratt Company employee involved in this shooting with a history of violence was able to obtain an Illinois Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card despite his felony record a gap in that system allowed Martin to apply for his concealed carry permit that ultimately triggered the discovery of his criminal history and revocation of the FOID. There was no indication the guns were ever confiscated only the post shooting investigation will prove that to be the case. Martin reportedly had been convicted for beating his girlfriend with a baseball bat and served prison time. The same individual had successfully circumvented State of Illinois firearms purchase laws and possibly procured the firearm used in the killing of 5 former co-workers and wounding 5 police officers. This same individual had been hired by the firm involved. So what went wrong in the hiring process? Was this a management hiring decision where Martin was given an opportunity or a negligent hiring example?
Whatever the reasoning, I caught up with Gary Thompson; Director of Physical Security at Aaron’s whose profound statement stayed with me. He said, “the incident happened before it started.” Let me ask you. Could a Threat Assessment team process been instrumental as a significant part of an effective workplace violence prevention initiative? I think so! Workplace violence prevention is an ongoing process involving multiple intervention strategies of which Threat Assessment plays a significant prevention role.
Shootings like this reflect a horrific example of how little is understood and applied in the prevention of workplace violence. The focus is placed on the workforce level as if they have the ability to implement strategies and influence the process. Workplace violence prevention involves an ongoing process that includes multiple intervention strategies designed to identify contributing factors, interdict and prevent escalation at the early stages and identify predisposition by reviewing personnel records and assessing current potential and capability. It also includes employee involvement but is their input valued? Threat Assessment is a significant component of the workplace violence prevention initiative that by design allows for my process of integration, collaboration, coordination of effort and resources and effective communications, leadership and execution in assessing and evaluating potential threats.
Workplace must seek to collaborate their resources in a coordinated spirit where communication silos are dismantled. Organizations have a legal and moral responsibility to implement and manage thoughtful workplace security strategy and tactics that are supported by training and shared experiences that help the workforce connect the dots. Anticipation of problems and recognition of responsible courses of actions is vital in prevention and root cause analysis. Post shooting observations and discussions are helpful moving forward but too late and preventing the shooting, allegations of negligence in hiring, training and management policies. What’s your workplace’s current posture?
It is essential to conduct work-site specific assessments to have an understanding of risk mitigation measures so as to prevent and avoid future problems and if not to be in a proactive position to minimize personnel and business risks. Innovative and creative separation protocols might have minimized the Henry Pratt Company outcome through the implementation of proper procedures that help reduce conflict by educating all involved, including union personnel. However, remember that discipline and separation should be part of the planning process where in the end all involved are being held accountable without surprises. It should include assessment of current management practices and company culture to identify contributory practices or approaches that may have unintentional consequences or not necessary. Introduce innovative and creative separation protocols intended for smooth separations and disciplinary outcomes. Workplace violence prevention strategies should empower workplaces and educational institutions in avoiding the surprise active shooter
Planned scheduled training is key in connecting the dots! But not just training to satisfy annual training requirements. Training should be appropriate in content and audience specific and designed to bring about specific changes or improvements. Training in warning signs and risk factors must be supported by examples and be scenario based. Challenge the trainer to develop content and methods that promote memory learning and retention through situational awareness. The creation of the workplace violence prevention mindset is the primary objective of a solid training objective. The idea is to engage the organization proactively, supervisors doing their thing and management playing enforcer of the policies, protocols and rules. Employees who understand their roles, responsibilities and consequences of not reporting observations or victimization become proactive participants.
This shooting is sad and preventable.
So I ask these questions.
Does your organization manage the threat of workplace or school violence by REACTION or PREVENTION? REACTION is operating under the myths it won’t happen here or that workplace violence is not preventable and when it happens the police are called. PREVENTION is a management and employee commitment and investment that designs proactive policies supported by quantifiable training and supporting plans, procedures and protocols.
Does your workplace violence prevention policy follow the OSHA Five Factors in developing and managing an effective workplace violence prevention program?
Management Commitment and Worker Participation—OSHA deems management responsible for controlling hazards by, among other things, urging all levels of management to become deeply involved in all aspects of the workplace violence prevention program, and worker participation should be required because workers can help identify and assess workplace hazards;
Worksite Analysis and Hazard Identification—management and workers are called upon to work together to assess records, existing procedures, and operations for jobs, employee surveys, and workplace security analyses;
Hazard Prevention and Control—after the worksite analysis is complete, employers should take appropriate steps to prevent or control the identified hazards and periodically evaluate the effectiveness of the chosen controls and improve, expand, or update them, as needed;
Safety and Health Training—all workers (including contractors and temporary employees) should receive training on the workplace violence prevention program at least annually and, in particularly high-risk settings, as often as monthly or quarterly to effectively reach and inform all workers; and
Recordkeeping and Program Evaluation—OSHA logs of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, worker injury reports, information regarding patients with a history of violence, and other documents reflecting trends or patterns at the workplace should be studied and the effectiveness of the workplace violence prevention program should be frequently evaluated and improved, as necessary.
In closing, workplace violence prevention must have a methodology. Communications, Collaboration and Coordination are essential ingredients in developing the workplace violence prevention mindset. The issues and problems revealed in the Henry Pratt Company shootings were preventable workplace homicides. Expecting different outcomes but doing the same thing will not result in an effective prevention mindset.
Living assumptions add to the confusion. Training by assumptions reinforces the confusion. Workplace violence should mean different things to a clerk working third shift in a convenience store, a nurse in a custodial care mental health unit, an armored car driver, or a manager at the headquarters of a financial services firm.
The employer or educational institution’s workplace violence prevention initiative will be more credible – and more likely to succeed – if they have a clear idea that’s clearly conveyed to every employee. The idea is to have employees that feel safe, have confidence in management’s commitment and who when called to be a witness in a civil liability law suit will represent the company or educational institution in the best of circumstances.
So what is your workplace attempting to accomplish by the workplace violence prevention policy – discipline or prevention?
You are so right. I wish that more employers would take your words into consideration. It is easier to stay away from trouble than get out of trouble. The planning of a Workplace Violence Prevention Program goes a long way to keep staff safe. Keep spreading the word. Buck Blackburn – Director of Facilities and Office Services GMAC – Reston VA.
Thank you, Buck Blackburn. GMAC was most discerning in that they took thoughtful steps along the way that enabled them to assess and evaluate their posture then took measures to help create situational awareness followed by implementation of a comprehensive workplace violence prevention program. It’s my experience that there’s a huge difference between the trainer and the consultant though not mutually exclusive. Then there has to be the critical thinking employer who asks the tough question that reassure their understanding of their needs. All too often employers are unfamiliar with what constitutes workplace violence prevention and as such are displeased with the outcome. These victims of circumstances once burnt know enough to get their employer in trouble by undertaking the matters into their own hands. Employers stay away from the comprehensive investment because their failure to act is based on myths and assumptions. I dispel myths and assumptions by explaining WHY and showing HOW to and not only WHAT is wrong. Prevention is the planning & development of multiple intervention strategies. Leadership is key in recognizing the need and following through as you did on GMAC’s behalf.