If You Have to Terminate…. Stay Safe!

Archive for the ‘Disgruntled Employee’ Category

If You Have to Terminate…. Stay Safe!

Posted on: July 10th, 2020

As I am about to publish my next Guest Blog by Mike Perkins, President of Frontline HR Solutions a 25 year Legal and HR Professional Consulting Practice, I would like to introduce a recent workplace homicide – suicide at a Walmart Distribution Center, Red Bluff, California by Louis Lesley Land a former worker who had been fired in 2019 after failing to show up for work.

On Saturday, June 27, 2020, Louis Lesley had apparently crashed his car into the center shooting his  semiautomatic rifle. Inside, he shot & killed one co-worker, injured 4 others, before being shot and killed by Red Bluff Police in Parking Lot. 

This particular story is a timely one as it relates to terminations and the potential risks, giving interest to this informative Guest Blog by Mike Perkins on the topic of “terminations”.  We both agree that while the process is the official termination of employment, we believe that the word has a negative connotation and the process needs to be considered a potential business-security threat.

I commend the Walmart Leadership and Security Teams for taking the appropriate workplace security and workplace violence prevention violence response risk mitigation measures, to prepare the workplace and protect the workforce against the potential threat posed by an armed intruder.

Here’s Mike Perkin’s information packed Guest Blog.

In this time of furloughs, layoffs, high unemployment, financial tension and uncertainty about the continued viability of many organizations, emotions are fragile and, sometimes, quite volatile.  Many companies are having to make difficult decisions about reducing their workforce for the unpredictable times that lie ahead.  Some companies are deferring employment decisions as long as possible while others are fighting for survival and having to make immediate cuts.  Essential workers who are still actively employed are worried about exposure to illness at work, while commuting on public transit, and during breaks.

Others who have been considered non-essential workers are often sitting at home wondering if they will still have a job, when they can return, and which creditors should be paid over others.  As the tension increases, substance abuse, domestic abuse and suicide rates are rising.

Terminating employees is always fraught with risk.  All these additional factors combine to exponentially increase the stakes. When it becomes necessary to discharge an employee, employers should do everything possible to reduce the tension and the risk for everyone involved.  Even before the Coronavirus-related growth of phone and video conferencing, I have been encouraging employers to consider utilizing alternatives to personal meetings and the use of “Administrative Leave” as practical strategies for risk mitigation.

Last year’s tragic workplace shooting at the Henry Pratt Company in Joliet, Illinois, is a grave reminder of the danger that surrounds the discipline and termination process.  In that situation, an employee who knew he was likely going to be terminated that day, brought a gun to work and shot his plant manager, HR manager, an HR intern (on his first day at work), his union chairman and union steward, a co-worker, and several police first-responders.  The shooting began in an isolated meeting room where the employee was told he was being terminated and continued after he fled from the room and moved throughout the facility.

Sometimes you have no choice but to end the employment relationship.  Sometimes the decision is purely economic and relatively straightforward.  Other times, the decision is more complicated.

Most challenging is when, despite your best efforts to salvage the relationship, one of your employees is just not working out.  She may not be showing up for work on time despite repeated warnings.  Sometimes he may not show up at all and doesn’t call to let you know.  He or she may have taken advantage of the company by falsifying hours while working remotely.  Co-workers and customers are left hanging.  Maybe she continuously ignores safety rules and is endangering herself and others.  Or, maybe he has been engaging in serious misconduct that is detrimental to your organization.  You’re convinced—this employee has to go.

As an employment attorney and HR professional, I have always advised clients “There is no such thing as a routine termination” and “There is no such thing as an emergency termination.”  Does that sound confusing and, possibly, inconsistent?  Let me explain.

“There are no routine terminations.” Terminating a person’s employment can be nerve-wracking and, sometimes, dangerous.  The first few times a manager or an HR professional communicates a termination decision can be especially unsettling and they may spend hours fretting over the decision and planning their approach. But, after a while, managers who have handled several terminations sometimes have the tendency to treat them routinely and may spend very little time reviewing the background and contemplating the best approach to take with an employee.

They become “cut and dried” decisions and the termination message is often handled with clinical detachment.  The process becomes routine.

Conversely, losing a job is never routine for an employee.  Everything is thrown into turmoil—housing, transportation, utilities, healthcare, financial stability, and relationships at work and at home.  Often, a person’s most significant feeling of self-worth comes from his or her position at work.  Sometimes, their work is their entire world. Even when a struggling employee has been coached, disciplined and given warnings, the employee may not accept that he or she has failed at the job.  For many, being terminated is earth-shattering.  Some rebound, recover and move on.  Some do not.

Some turn to alcohol or drugs. Some lash out on social media.  Some turn to violence. Truly, there are no routine terminations.  Every termination should be treated as a significant event with extensive review of the background circumstances and documentation, an analysis of the legal and security risks, and consideration and planning for the safety and well-being of those delivering the message and those on the receiving end.

“There are no emergency terminations.”  The risk of an employment lawsuit arising from a termination is higher than all other types of employment-related actions combined.  Over the last twenty-five years, I have counseled with clients and managers concerning hundreds of terminations.

Despite “Let’s do it now” pressures from irate managers, I cannot think of one situation where it was absolutely necessary to discharge the employee immediately.

But wait.  If the employee is engaged in significant misconduct or posing safety risks, shouldn’t he or she be removed quickly?  Yes, but it does not mean the employee needs to be terminated quickly.  Hasty, spur-of- the-moment terminations often lead to questionable decisions, sloppy execution and elevated emotions.  Even economic terminations should be carefully planned.

Administrative Leave.  For the last several years, I have advocated the use of “Administrative Leave pending review” in lieu of a rushed termination.  Placing an employee on Administrative Leave accomplishes several things:

  1. Removes the employee from the workplace and from official interaction with co-employees and customers;
  2. Allows a “cooling off” period for emotions (employee, managers, co-workers);
  3. Allows time for gathering facts, documentation and witness information;
  4. Reduces the “intimidation factor” for witnesses when the subject employee is absent from the workplace;
  5. Lets the employee know the company is carefully reviewing his/her employment status or incidents affecting that status;
  6. Allows time to obtain the employee’s response to the alleged conduct;
  7. Allows time for HR and/or legal review; and
  8. Allows time to review safety concerns and put appropriate security measures into effect.

There is also a psychological influence.  Removing the employee from the workplace tends to create a calming effect for all involved. It gives everyone a chance to breathe.  I have found that employees generally respond calmly to being placed on Administrative Leave; especially when the leave is communicated as an opportunity for the company to carefully review employment status and any information pertaining to specific incidents that may have occurred.

Employees like to be told that they will have an opportunity to tell their side of the story.  They expect, and should receive, a thorough and fair review of the circumstances before a termination decision is made.

To Pay or Not to Pay?  Administrative Leave may be paid or unpaid.  Some factors in that decision may include: applicable state and local law, past practice, company policies, company economics, terms of a collective bargaining agreement or employment contract, perceived volatility of the employee, nature of the offense, whether the employee is exempt or non-exempt, length of employment, legal risk, security considerations and the likelihood that the employee will actually be terminated.

In most cases, I recommend that the employee be paid while on administrative leave.

It helps take the immediate financial pressure off the employee and conveys a sense of fairness– that the company has not reached a final decision without doing its due diligence.  Sometimes, anticipating the inevitable, employees use this time for job hunting.  If the employee has another job lined up, the stakes are reduced for all involved.

Advising an employee that he or she is being placed on Administrative Leave can be done in person while the employee is at work or by telephone before or after work.  If the employee works remotely, it can be done by phone or video conference during work hours.  As usual, a witness should be present or conferenced in and announced as being present on the call or video conference.

The employee should be advised that he or she is being placed on “Administrative Leave Pending Investigation” or “Administrative Leave Pending Review of Circumstances” pertaining to employment.

The employee should be instructed not to return to the workplace until notified otherwise and avoid communicating with other employees about the issues being reviewed.  The employee should be advised whether the leave is “with pay” or “without pay” and that someone will contact the employee very soon to hear his or her side of the story.  The employee should be advised and steps should be taken to temporarily suspend access to company computers, systems, email, memory storage and facilities.

Be sure to follow through with the commitment to contact and interview the employee and witnesses identified by the employee before making a final employment decision.

Communicating the Decision.  At the conclusion of the investigation and review, the employee should be notified of the final decision and given instructions for returning to work or for ending employment.  If the decision is made to return the employee to work, the employee should be advised of this by telephone or email and then invited back to discuss (with a witness present) expectations for the future,  and conditions for continuing employment. This discussion can also be held by phone or video conference.

If in person, appropriate security measures should be followed for the employee’s return to the facility and for the return-to-work-meeting.

During this meeting, it is important to warn the employee to avoid any type of actual or perceived retaliation against other employees who may have been involved in the issue and investigation.

If the final decision is to terminate the employee, I advocate communicating the decision by telephone or video conference.  The Joliet shooting is reason enough to consider this option.  The employee is aware of the strong potential for termination and, absent special circumstances, it is not necessary to increase the security risk by inviting the employee back to the facility to be told he or she is being fired.

When there is a union contract that requires personal meetings, union officials may be willing to waive the personal appearance and allow all interviews, hearings and discussions to be conducted by phone or video conference.  If your collective bargaining agreement does not allow for this, consider proposing telephone or video conferencing as an option when you negotiate your renewal contract.

If the decision is made to ask the employee to return to the facility for a termination meeting, situationally-appropriate security steps should be taken.

As with the initial Administrative Leave communication, I have found that employees are generally more accepting of a termination decision when it follows Administrative Leave review.  My clients and I have not experienced any negative repercussions from communicating the final decision by phone.  A witness should be present and introduced so the employee will know there are others listening to the call or participating in a video conference.  I recommend being very careful with the words used to communicate the message.

Avoid using words like “terminating” or “fired.”  They are volatile on their face and have the potential to inflame emotions.

Instead, consider using words like “we are ending your employment,” “we will be proceeding with separation of employment” or “the circumstances leave us no choice but to discontinue your employment.”  Of course, all the normal termination, final pay and benefits continuation information should also be communicated during this conference.

If your company follows a neutral reference policy, it is usually advisable to remind the employee of that policy.  Terminated employees are often concerned with “what are they going to tell people about me?”

Where appropriate, be sure to include a clear instruction that the employee is not authorized to return to any of the company’s facilities.  Arrangements should be made for exchange of employee property and company property via courier or other means. When available, remind the employee of the organization’s employee assistance program resources and any appropriate outplacement assistance.

If the employee has engaged in serious misconduct such as harassment, theft, or acts/threats of violence, it is recommended that you consult with legal counsel for advice about outplacement assistance and your response to reference requests.

There is a fine line between your confidentiality responsibilities to the former employee and your duty to others to avoid promulgating a known risk.

The somber story of the Joliet tragedy should prompt HR and operational leaders to thoroughly evaluate their approach to employee discipline and discharge.  While the use of Administrative Leave is an effective strategy for reducing the risk surrounding employee discipline, it does not eliminate all risk.

Employers should always exercise due diligence and implement adequate security measures to protect themselves and their employees throughout the disciplinary and post-disciplinary process.

 

#Covid-19 Return to Work Risk Mitigation Challenges and Opportunities

Posted on: May 13th, 2020

Management must not begin to view the “Covid-19 Return to Work” as a “new normal” yet, but, rather a “transition interim” towards a stabilized period where Employers and the Workforce can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

In as much as Employers have a duty and responsibility to provide for a safe and secure workplace (OSHA Duty to Warn Clause) how it is achieved is not a mandate but also a moral, ethical and legal obligation. Providing for a safe and secure workplace can be effectively implemented through organizational engagement.

Whether your business or an organization is a small, midsize or large size Employers having a workplace violence prevention mindset will aid the thinking approaches to managing #Covid19 Return to Work Risk Mitigation Challenges and Opportunities during this “emergence phase”.

Because you may have a different emphasis and approach to workplace violence prevention you may  not understand risk factors as important and may not find contributing factors as relevant as I may. However, both are important in prevention and mitigation. Managing risk during this “emergence phase” will be full of challenges and opportunities.

You are apt to find more frequent outbursts, verbal altercations and acts of defiance in preventing the feared surprise attacker (active shooter). Be prepared for the angry workforce.

Depending on what side of the issues you are on Covid19 Return to Work Risk Mitigation may or may not present challenges or opportunities.  Consider it a “neutral zone” full of opportunity to assess and evaluate what the “new normal” might look like. A time where rules are not clear and new approaches are required.

Will you anticipate the challenge in taking proactive measures in looking for a proper solution or will you have a reactive, dam the torpedoes, full steam ahead attitude and miss potential risk mitigation opportunities?

Is there room for changing old paradigms of thinking and operating while still providing for a safe and secure workplace and contending with other business-security expectations?

How the Covid19 Return Return to Work Risk Mitigation challenges are handled and how opportunities are strategized will depend entirely on empathy, thoughtfulness and effective leadership.  Building new approaches might dictate new ways of encountering business-security decisions, managing risks and preventing escalation of violence to physical acts of violence.

Supervisors may be called upon to lead and give employees the benefit of the doubt. During this “emergence phase” “new normal” will task the Employer’s management and leadership responsibilities:

  • They will need to be responsible and accountable for their actions in not allowing situations to escalate.
  • Engaged supervision involved in anticipating problems, recognizing and responding to warning signs and understanding the impact of business issues on the workforce’s perception of the issues.
  • An organizational mindset may require understanding the significance of owning outcomes in minimizing risks by acknowledging unintentional consequences.

What if scenarios may become more prevalent and relevant in forecasting impact on business decisions and actions.  If you are in Human Resources you might see convenient opportunities in addressing adverse personnel decisions and personnel reduction actions not possible before Covid19 but imaginable  now.  You may find expedient solutions more practical today by the government mandated workplace closings that may include assumptions on downsizings, reorganization or not rehiring employees.

Employee perception of disparate treatment will drive the thinking and the behavior that fuels the emotional contagion, rationale and justification to exact their vengeance.

Supervisors and managers will need to be centers of influence and lead by example in being able to recognize the potentially volatile workplace environments and have the backing and ability to mitigate risks on the spot.

Success will be predicated on management’s commitment to empathetic leadership while providing for a safe workplace in addressing inappropriate conduct through root cause analysis.  Treating employees with dignity and respect will take on a different meaning that shows sincerity, care and concern for their well-being.

If you are the safety or security manager you may find yourselves as “Ambassadors of Change and Influence”.  You might view challenges as new duties and responsibilities in addressing social distancing relating to workforce, customer and vendor interactions; support management decisions in the removal of employee(s) who indicated positive during the infectious decease screening process; and enforcing violations of the workplace violence policy in response to nonviolent volatile acts of violence (verbal outburst, yelling, screaming)  to name a few.

Until such time when “new normal” stability is gained, Covid19 Return to Work may very well be the “new emerging threat”.

Workplace Violence Prevention will require a different mindset that engages with the workforce in finding amicable solutions rather than hasty swift actions to discipline and removal. Containment of emotional reactions will drive the need for management and workforce civility.

Enforcing the Workplace Violence Prevention Policy may take on a more compassionate approach in some incidents by addressing root causes and contributing factors before disciplinary action. In other words management may need to become more transparent in adjudicating workforce discipline.

The “new normal” may require understanding of the unintentional consequences of new policy changes and personnel decisions affecting business and organization reorganizations, consolidation and required learning of new functions. The transition from disgruntled to aggression may become more apparent and a frequent occurrences during these turbulent periods and VUCA concepts (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) may prevail.

Whereas prior to Covid19,  Employers might have been more inclined to act swiftly on the disciplinary and separation process in addressing misconduct and acts of violence, during the “emergence phase”,  prevention and de-escalation may necessitate an empathetic response where appropriate before eventual administrative action is taken.

Because of the workplace turbulence and employee perception of unfair labor disparate treatment there will be a tendency for more frequent emotional outbursts. As such, there will be a need for supervisory training in aspects of workplace violence prevention training that includes defusing conflict, de-escalation,, warning signs, risk factors, contributing factors and issues around managing the potentially volatile workplace environment.

The real challenge awaiting Employers in this “new normal’ will be the employee perception of disparate unfair management decisions masked as Covid19 Pandemic Return to Work Labor Management Employment actions. 

The manifestation of frequent nonviolent acts of defiance and episodes of anger by employees will be a more frequent in response to workforce reactions to disagreeable news. In short, increased tensions will become more apparent as management and workforce resolve perception issues during this “emergence period”.

How will you respond to the Covid19 Return to Work ‘new normal”? Will you be proactive or reactive?

Felix P. Nater, CSC is a security management consultant who helps Employers implement and manage workplace security strategy and policy with an emphasis on workplace violence prevention. He believes that workplace violence prevention is an ongoing process involving  multiple intervention strategies. He derived his experiences and consulting model while working as a Postal Inspector on U.S. Postal Inspection Services’ New York Division Violence Interdiction Team.

Contact Felix P. Nater at 1-877-valu101 or 1-877-825-8101. Visit his website www.naterassociates.com

Workplace Violence Prevention: When Is The Time To Improve Your Prevention Posture

Posted on: February 6th, 2020

Now is the time for all organizations to seize the moment to improve their workplace violence prevention security posture. Why wait until you are surprised by the former disgruntled employee or angry spouse; both preventable situations. MYTH…workplace violence is not preventable. TRUTH…there is no management commitment.

How? By conducting a critical assessments of your workplace violence prevention policies and workplace violence prevention programs to insure alignment with other existing policies, plans and procedures and identifying gaps in physical security and security management. Evaluate the training ROI (Return on Investment) to insure it’s meeting the intended objectives. Is the training addressing a particular concern? Is it customized to specifically address worksite specific risks? Is the training audience and content specific?

Most employees I speak with do not like computer based training that is not Branded or interactive. In fact, many do not like compliance training because they believe it’s designed to address workplace requirements and not their personnel safety and security concerns and needs.

Why a comprehensive assessment in the first place? It’s my experiences that the assessment results could very well give those involved the evidence needed to present it to the C-suite, the Executive Director, Superintendent and/or the Board of Directors.

A comprehensive assessment could very well uncover gaps in the existing prevention initiative that could help thwart the next homicidal threat, workplace suicide or intimate partner spillover into the workplace violence. Gaps may include access control, visitor management, and/or physical security and contracting policy.

Workplace violence prevention policies that do not address objectives, provide explanations of the prohibited behavior and organizational responsibilities to include workforce responsibilities, contribute more to ambiguity than prevention. Most policies tend to focus on the employee on employee and former employee threat and not the 4 Categories of Workplace Violence Prevention provided by OSHA.

Type #1: Criminal Intent This is when violence occurs and the perpetrator has no connection to the business or its employees, seeking merely to perform a crime that will likely involve physically harming someone. Most workplace homicides, as well as incidents of robbery, shoplifting, terrorism and even criminal trespass qualify.

Type #2: Customer/Client This happens when the perpetrator has an acceptable relationship with the business and becomes hostile while being served. While this can be perpetrated by any group being serviced by a business, the bulk of occurrence of this form of workplace violence tend to happen within the healthcare sector, in places like nursing homes and mental health facilities-the most common victim of this sort of harassment tend to be the caregivers of patients.

There is also a fair number of incidents of workplace violence being committed against police, flight attendants and educators. These three professions account for 3 percent of all workplace homicides.

Type #3: Worker vs. Worker This form of workplace violence arises when a current or former employee commits violence against another current or former employee. This category is responsible for 7 percent of workplace homicides.

Type #4: Personal Relationships In this type of workplace violence, the perpetrator is unconnected to the business but is connected to one of the victims. This is the sort of situation that arises when the victims of domestic violence have their violator show up to continue the unwanted attention at the job site. 5 percent of all work-related homicides would be considered this type.

To be comprehensive in approach and design, employer and educational institutions should strive to develop policies, plans, procedures and training that take into account worksite specific risks in addressing their  responsibilities to provide for a safe workplace not just the current employee or student threat.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s (OSH Act) General Duty Clause essentially states that employers are required to provide a safe and healthful workplace for all workers covered by the OSH Act.

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3828.pdf

Employers who do not take reasonable steps to prevent or abate a recognized violence hazard in the workplace can be cited. Any hazard can be a person such as a current employee, former employee, disgruntled spouse, vendor, client, customer or non-employee posing a threat to workforce safety while in the performance of their jobs.

https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/generalsearch.citation_detail?id=314179649&cit_id=01001

Sometimes organizations overlook valuable internal data and/or other external data to support program objectives and initiatives.  For example, reviewing such data and considering its potential impact, proactive organizations can benefit by the analysis of pertinent information in helping organizations how best to prevent or minimize the threat of violence, understand circumstances, or even identify the next active shooter.

For example, statistical information pertaining to the 277 FBI-designated active shooter incidents that occurred in the United States from 2000 to 2018 offer valuable insight and analysis of where the emphasis or focus can be directed. https://www.fbi.gov/about/partnerships/office-of-partner-engagement/active-shooter-incidents-graphics

So Why wait for the next workplace or school place shooting? Prevention can take on a meaningful productive role when organizations take employee observations and reports seriously, do not overlook potential warning signs and roll out a credible reporting system.  Therfore, it’s important to promote and encourage the workforce to report their victimization and observations.

Preventing the homicidal threat of workplace violence begins by first addressing the nonfatal conduct that when left unabated leads to conflict and escalation. Or when the unintentional consequence of policies, assignments, personnel decisions, reorganizations, mandates or even mergers and acquisitions contribute to unhappy and disgruntled employee behaviors who make their displeasure known. Early intervention is key in avoiding escalation or being caught by surprise.

When the disgruntled employee transitions to the thoughts of homicidal violence, he has crossed the line of rational thinking, justifying their intended actions. As preventing workplace violence is an ongoing process involving multiple intervention strategies, organizations must design policies/plans that are flexible to engender empathy, and compassion in treating victims and witnesses with dignity and respect.

Why Wait? Why not strengthen your existing workplace violence prevention and security posture NOW? Appoint a program manager to be the “Go To Person” who helps the organization stay ahead of any surprises by working with the workforce to review existing conditions, confirm that training supports policies, plans and procedures and that creative training opportunities are exploited for maximizing the training value. You might call this person the “Threat Manager” or “Workforce Protection Manager”

To insure an organizational commitment and investment, senior managers can implement leadership and management strategies that integrate specific resources, efforts and tools in combating the threat of workplace violence. Until there is an alignment between performance, responsibility, accountability and consequences the workplace violence prevention policy will be seen as a management disciplinary tool.

Workplace Violence Prevention remains an essential workplace initiative for all organizations, no matter their size or scope, and the key to successful workplace violence prevention and incident management is thorough, thoughtful development of human resource-security metrics and ongoing analysis.

While data alone will not be successful on its own, worksite specific data can help managers point to areas of concern in addressing critical prevention through actionable information employees can consume, understand and relate to. Policy not supported by the above is wasteful use of time, resources and budgeting.

While I may suggest that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, I am a realist and recognize that the pressure to produce is always top priority in American businesses. Time away from the desk for training is viewed as time away from production and revenue generation and courses that contribute directly to regulatory compliance always have first dibs on the budget.  However, Courts want to hear about the employer’s sincere efforts not excuses around budgets, schedules and resources, In the end the juries  want to know if the serious injury or fatality was preventable by taking reasonable risk mitigation measures.

To maximize the time, resources and budgeting, plan the training to insure it is workforce and worksite specific. Workplace violence should mean different things to a mechanic working in a vehicle maintenance facility; an employee working in a retail establishment; a service provider on a customer’s property trying to locate downed power lines; a nurse in a custodial care mental health unit, an armored car driver, a social worker at a client’s home, or a medical insurance provider traveling between locations alone, employees at a plant working with temporary employees and or employees working at a headquarters office setting.

Employers and educational institutions can enjoy a credible workplace prevention initiative if the effort is comprehensive and tied to integration, collaboration, coordination, communication, technology, leadership, supervision and training.

Chances are that you do not believe workplace violence is an issue at your workplace but why take the chance?

Lockdown Drills & Kids: Teaching Lifesaving Skills to Children of All Abilities…

Posted on: April 19th, 2019

As a workplace security consultant specializing in workplace violence prevention, what I do with the Client must create sustainability long after I am gone. Organizational resources must be considered when developing training content. The need to be as realistic must not outweigh the organization’s capabilities to sustain the effort.

School and workplace violence response strategies and tactics are important but at what expense? Should the “training approach” to active shooter be one designed around the means justifies the end or around creating the best retentive value around the execution of thoughtful programming that encourages and promotes quality training objectives?

Should those involved be traumatizing students, staff and workers for the purpose of making training as realistic as possible? According to the research the facts are not clear. In the 25 plus years I have been exposed to workplace violence and workplace violence prevention, it’s been my intentional desire to create training that stimulated learning and motivated retention of the content based on mutually collaborative experiences. The idea is to design training with organizational effectiveness in mind.

A recent “active shooter” drill in Indiana made my skin crawl. As someone who came from a military and law enforcement background, I was horrified to discover that local law enforcement officers told teachers to kneel along a wall while they were shot execution style with plastic bullets trying to demonstrate reality.

This is exactly what happens when corporate leaders and school superintendents fail to involve themselves in the decision-making process while leaving it up to others to decide what’s good for your school or workplace environments. Any role I may play as a security consultant must be predicated on organizational input and desired outcomes.

For example, how may reading this blog have been instructed on management responsibilities, prolonged lockdown issues, special needs and family support preparation considerations and planning related to an active shooter? Probably a few, maybe! You know why? Simply because there is a lack of experience based and knowledge centered training and consulting taking place today more than ever without specific facts.

In my interest to give the active shooter training challenge credibility and perspective, I am always seeking to find professionals with a unique and  thoughtful education and learning methodology that serves to create understanding and responsible actions.

In some instances schools are already described as prison comps by students, teachers and parents as environments that expose students to other risks, say parents who speak under anonymity. I don’t say eliminate the training but rather suggest that such training be thoughtful and deliberate.

This issue of my blog highlights the efforts of Guest Blogger Rachel Tepfer Copeland and her child’s experience during a preschool lock down exercise. You must know that my blogs often attracts direct phone calls from interested readers and concerned victims, witnesses and observers who have value to add, offer support and their services.

Rachel Tepher Copeland a Certified Child Life Specialist struck me as the type of guest blog contributor I desire to collaborate with because of the value and lessons that can be learned from such experiences, if we are to be a part of the solution in supporting the need for quality active shooter and lock down training moving forward.

Such training should not exploit the school or the workplace’s fears. It’s my opinion that active shooter drills marginally, if at all improve safety of teachers, students and workers, while exposing them to mental trauma and physical injury. The decision to bring in local police trainers or to hire the expert consultant should be predicated on past performance, knowledge of content, delivery capability and desired outcomes. There are states like Iowa, Florida and South Carolina and others interested in passing laws requiring these drills in public schools. I agree with the training need but disagree with the mandate for a variety of reasons implied and addressed in this blog.

Here’s Rachel Tepher Copeland and her preshooler’s experience for your information.

Rachel:

One afternoon I went to pick up my son from preschool and he was very obviously shaken and upset. A generally chatty guy, I was concerned when he had a difficult time telling me what had happened.

The most I could gather was that the class had played a strange game where the children had hidden in the dark behind backpacks. Then it dawned on me, it was a lock-down drill. The more questions I asked my son, the more concerned I became. We quickly turned the car around and headed back to speak with the preschool director of the highly vetted private preschool he attended.

After further conversation, I found that my son had become scared, overwhelmed and upset during the drill because he did not know or understand what was happening. He did not feel comfortable hiding with the class in the tight quarters and became upset. In an effort to make him more comfortable, the teachers removed him from the bathroom and placed him, alone, in the darkened classroom.

He was told to hide behind a backpack located right next to the large window and to stay there until someone came back for him. Then the teachers went back inside the bathroom with the other children and locked the door. I was furious. I was heartbroken. But more than anything, I was scared.

As a Certified Child Life Specialist since 2004, my job has always been to talk to children about scary and overwhelming situations and make them easier to understand. Reading books to children is an amazing way to take something terrifying and make it relatable, especially for the very young. Social stories are one of my favorite means of preparing children for difficult situations. I love social stories because they are perfect for children of any ability, as they are a positive, empowering story written in first person language, which encourages and empowers children to learn new difficult skills.

After my son’s horrific experience, I searched everywhere for a book with easy to understand directions that would be appropriate for my son to learn about lock-downs and how to keep himself safe. However, no matter where I looked, I could only find books for much older children.

There was nothing age appropriate or all-encompassing in a social story format. Additionally, all of the resources I found discussed option-based teaching (i.e. run, hide, fight).

While these are sometimes successful options for adults, options-based teaching is neither developmentally appropriate nor feasible for young children or children with special needs.

After searching the market and finding it bare, I decided to write my own book for my son. Originally, I created a single copy of the book I Can Be A Superhero During A Lockdown just for him, however, after another major school shooting occurred only miles from our home, I decided to self-publish it and make it available to anyone who might also find it helpful.

I Can Be A Superhero During A Lockdown is now an Amazon best seller and has been endorsed by several safety organizations, including Safe and Sound Schools and Safe Havens Interventional.

I am proud to have created a resource that helps to decrease anxiety while also teaching children of all developmental abilities how to remain safe. My website, RachelTepferCopeland.com , also provides tips and information for parents and educators about lockdowns.

My son is very proud of the book we have created- in fact the main character is a cartoon replica of him. He no longer has issues during lockdowns and was able to complete a drill successfully without any problems.

Many children, however, are not as lucky. While necessary, lockdown drills themselves cause trauma to young children—the recent viral picture of a child with a goodbye note written on her arm to her parents only one example.

As educators, parents, safety professionals, and professionals that work with children, we need to remember that providing age appropriate and child-friendly information to children about what to expect and how to respond is respectful of children, their feelings and needs.

To ignore the situation, to assume that it is just like other drills that children complete regularly or to compare it to duck and cover drills of more seasoned parents’ youth is not the same.

A recent Washington Post report revealed that during the 2017-2018 school year alone, over 4.1 million children enduring a lock-down drill. Over 220,000 of those children were in pre-school and kindergarten. We have the choice of either preparing our children in advance or dealing with the after affects of the trauma they suffer.

I’ve chosen to preemptively prepare my child and to teach him what to do if he was to ever face a true active situation. We all have a choice to make. We can either sit around and read about the horrific things that are happening in our company and wonder “when are things going to change? When is somebody going to do something about that?!”

Or we can each realize that we ARE somebody. Teaching young children how to keep themselves safe while decreasing anxiety is something that you can do right now. And there’s no day better than the present to make a difference, and maybe even save some lives.

Felix:

It’s my opinion as a workplace security management consultant specializing in workplace violence prevention that students and employees should not be exposed to physical or traumatic injury just to create a training reality. Such training should be tied to the organizational prevention strategy that takes all of the related issues into consideration as life survival immediate protective measures.

They should be designed to educate and prepare those involved to respond appropriately in a way that empowers them to react with a measured sense of command and control of their situation. A dad of a middle schooler told me that his son told him that it made no sense to run back to his classroom when it made more sense to exit through the nearby doors.

 

Another Workplace Shooting at the Henry Pratt Company, Aurora, IL, February 16, 2019 Leaves Five Current Employees Dead and 5 Police Officers Wounded

Posted on: March 6th, 2019

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.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/02/16/man-kills-five-warehouse-shooting-spree-shortly-after-being-fired-illinois-police-say/

 

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?

 

Dispelling 3 Common Myths about Workplace Violence Prevention and Workplace Security

Posted on: August 3rd, 2018

When I speak with people about the topic of workplace violence prevention, their responses indicate their understanding of what constitutes workplace violence prevention.

“Our Zero Tolerance Policy addresses our workplace violence prevention efforts”.

“Management deals with such problems with discipline and if necessary we terminate the problem employees.”

“We call the police when we have a situation we can’t handle.”

“Security problems that our employees have in the community are referred to the police.”

What I hear are cookie-cutter responses because workplace violence consist of physical violence and non-violence related behaviors like harassment, bullying, name calling, verbal abuse, intimidation, threatening conduct, stalking, sabotage and cyber security threats. It is not waiting for the homicidal incident! OSHA documents about 2 million such incidents annually. We believe that number is much higher simply because it is underreported as workplace violence.

In short, what I hear is a rational that seems devoid of an articulated top down organizational workplace or school prevention and violence response strategy. It appears that prevention is based on assumptions, convenient decisions and expedient actions.

They seem not to know what they don’t know and convinced themselves they know – “Doing the same thing over & over, expecting different results.”

Here are the 3 of the most common myths most often applied over the years:

MYTH #1: Workplace violence will not happen here.

“Too many workplace cultures subscribe” to the theory that Zero Tolerance puts employees on notice that such behavior will not be tolerated. Experience has shown that employees are reluctant to report their co-workers if it means disciplinary action. Others believe that their background screening will help them hire the right person. Truth is that background screening cannot predict what an employee with diminished coping skills will do in the future in managing conflict. So applying the “walk like a duck it is a duck” euphemism may not apply in addressing workplace violence. Best Practices have a place so long as they are not applied as a blanket solution without adaptability and flexibility.

Some organizations believe that employing armed guards will discourage the homicidal threat of violence. The question I always pose is who protects the workplace against the lone armed guard. The solution is not the lone armed guard but the prevention strategy.

With the emphasis on the homicidal threat of violence the nonfatal acts of violence are treated as employee misconduct and improperly addressed. Contributing factors are rarely identified because the focus is on the employee misconduct and not “why” the employee became aggressive, confrontational or threatening. So while the focus may be on the active shooter threat, we forget to focus on prevention to identify the contributing factors that might very well lead to such aggression and a civil liability suit for failing to foresee a recognizable hazard.

Assumptions about workplace violence and the value of prevention nullify the thinking required in the development of a comprehensive holistic workplace violence prevention program intended to be proactive.

MYTH #2: Workplace violence is not preventable.

This myth more or so applies to the threat posed by the non-employee opportunistic criminal, armed robber or domestic violence/intimate partner violence threat but should not apply to the employee threat. The employee threat is PREVENTABLE. There are workplaces that subscribe to the common belief, at least in part to the notion that the disgruntled employee is hard to detect and therefore hard to deal with. As such, workplaces do not invest in developing adequate prevention strategies, measures and procedures to proactively engage prevention measures. The reasoning may defer to this belief due to expediency in their efforts because it may lack senior management commitment and investment in proper training and alignment of resources.

Creating a culture of organizational responsibility, accountability and leadership can go a long way towards building employee trust and confidence in reporting their observations. Key is to create employee engagement based on credibility in reporting, accountability and supervision so that witnesses and victims can believe proper action will be taken. .

MYTH #3: We have workplace violence under control.

We have things under control is the typical response I’ve heard from larger organizations that believe they have matters under control and they very well may have. In speaking with some of their representatives, I am impressed by the level of commitment and investment. While they  rely on their Zero Tolerance Policy there appears to be a coordinated effort between Human Resources, Security and other departments. However, I wonder how many of such organizations have actually surveyed their workforce in receiving actual feedback? In order to tap into their workplace realities, management must ask the workforce about their experiences and actual impressions in evaluating the organization’s workplace violence prevention posture. Transparency in responding to employee reports and complaints will give the prevention effort credibility.

Maximize the Prevention Value through Multiple Intervention Strategies

Prevention is directly linked to how organizations intentionally manage the workplace violence prevention policy/plan/program. Workplaces and educational institutions that make a management commitment and deliberate investment in applying Multiple Intervention Strategies will have a clear advantage over those that live in a world of ‘MYTHs”.  Deferring issues and situations to their local law enforcement rather than investing in a proactive workplace violence prevention initiative may expose their liability.

Supervision, coaching, counseling, EAP, training, and performance improvement plans are examples of Multiple Intervention Strategies that may avert disaster. I find “Employee Engagement” as a new component of a Multiple Intervention Strategy from the standpoint of an engaged workforce built on employee trust and confidence. “Employee Engagement” is measurable. For example, Gallup estimates that disengaged employees cost the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion dollars each year.

According to Accenture, less than 50% of CFO appear to understand the ROI (Return on Investment) in human capital. Could this perception play a role in supporting a strong argument for why the above myths exist today? After all, by understanding and measuring the threat of workplace violence against poor productivity and performance, medical and injury compensation and time and attendance, impact on the organization’s bottom-line can be measured along with identifying ROI.

I think correlation is significant in helping to understand impact. The World Health Organization reports that stress cost American Business an estimated $300 billion annually. On the other hand, workplace violence is estimated to cost $121 billion annually. One can safely conclude that stress is a by-product of harassment, bullying and other related behaviors. Time away from work results in an average of 3.5 lost days per workplace violence incident recorded. Out of court civil law suit settlements average $500,000  Nonfatal assaults results in 876,000 lost work days annually. How do these areas help your organization develop your own metrics?

In Closing…

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Would you agree that by understanding the “WHAT, HOW and WHY” of workplace violence prevention and understanding and measuring employee satisfaction, productivity and impact on the bottom-line, effective programs can be developed and managed? Drawing a correlation between workplace violence prevention and employee engagement can help enhance the organizational response and begin to appreciate the value of proactive intervention. Hasty intervention and speedy response to employee complaints and observations will help organizations avoid being surprised by the active shooter. Remember that a workplace or school active shooter is a failed workplace or school violence prevention policy.

Workplace Violence Prevention – Myths, Confusion & Misunderstandings

Posted on: July 9th, 2017

My business associate and Founder of the Workplace Violence Prevention Institute Kathleen M. Bonczyk, Esq. Attorney, Consultant and Advocate properly calls June a bloody month when a former employee named Henry Bello entered the Bronx Lebanon Hospital, New York City at about 2:50 p.m., Friday, June 30, 2017 with a rifle concealed under a lab coat and began shooting. At least one person was killed and 6 others were injured before Bello apparently committed suicide. It was reported as a disgruntled ex-employee rampage shooting – the fourth in the United States since June 5th.

Pretty straight forward report. However, would you agree that there’s too much confusion and myths about Workplace Violence Prevention and what it is? I often read of news reports where experts are quoted as saying that though “workplace violence is rare workplaces need to take relative measures to protect against armed intruders such as actives shooters”.
According to OSHA USA there are over 2 million reported incidents of workplace violence every year and that the number could be considerably higher. This lack of understanding in defining workplace violence might be at the root cause of why the prevention effort is woefully underfunded and under managed. There is a tendency to confuse the use of “workplace violence” as referring to a homicidal threat. When in fact, “Workplace violence” includes much more than just homicides or workplace shootings.
The U.S. Department of Labor defines “workplace violence” as any threat or act of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at a work site. In making a distinction between the types of violence both the FBI and OSHA  separates “workplace violence” into four (4) categories of violence based on victim-perpetrator relationship. Such acts of workplace violence are even further defined as nonfatal and fatal incidents.
In reality, homicidal incidents of violence involving current employees, former employees and disgruntled spouses and intimate partner violence in the workplace is a fairly rare occurrence in the United States.

Media coverage and sensationalized reports by some misinformed suggest that homicidal violence is increasing. The number of workplace related homicides has fallen from 518 in 2010 to 417 in 2015, the last year for which complete statistics are available. Of these cases, only an average of 12 percent were committed by a current or former co-worker.

It is important that we clarify these myths and confusions in reporting and in categorizing workplace violence if workplaces are to appropriately commit and invest resources. Managing the threat of workplace violence requires understanding the continuum acts and their direct correlation to escalation such as name calling, verbal abuse, bullying, harassment, arguments, personal disputes, fights and other forms of workplace related nonfatal acts of violence if, human resources, security managers, risk managers and others responsible are to justify implementation of comprehensive policies and plans.

Language is important in applying the right mixture of prevention strategy, resources, awareness and training. If and when the language is cleaned up employers can then begin to appreciate the value of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” in rolling out and managing comprehensive workplace violence prevention policies that are aligned with strategies, plans, procedures, training, plans, people and technology.

I thought you might find this article from my blog on the topic relevant and appropriate. Please click the link.  https://www.naterassociates.com/what-does-workplace-violence-prevention-mean-to-you/

Workplace Violence Prevention is NOT preparing the workforce to take on armed intruders in the workplace.   That’s too late and suggest a failed prevention initiative. Prevention is hopefully never having to deal with the threat of posed by the disgruntled current or former employee who transitions to active shooter or hostile intruder.

It certainly isn’t waiting for a disgruntled employee to exact his anger on the workplace. Workplace Violence Prevention is preventing that kind of thinking from happening in the first place. It requires an integrated, collaborated, coordinated and a communicated leadership philosophy. 

The myths and confusion associated with Workplace Violence Prevention continues to be a challenge for most organizations regardless of size or type. We accept that no organization is immune and many are unprepared to deal with routine incidents let alone complex issues associated with an armed intruder.

What’s particularly concerning is that disgruntled employees transition to homicidal aggression without notice or reporting by employers, employees and/or family members. Rarely is the employer alerted. Rarely do employees report their suspicions or observations.

Employers are encouraged to take proactive measures in educating the workplace in understanding the “WHY” in resolving existing conditions or contributing factors that when left unresolved escalate to aggression, threats and fights and even worst when the  separated employee rationalizes his intentions to retaliate.

If interested in creating an organizational paradigm shift in your workplace violence prevention efforts from reactive to proactive, “Stop Talking and Take More Action today. Call to learn more about how the Workplace Violence Prevention Consultant, Nater Associates, Ltd. can help you. Please feel free to call Felix P. Nater, CSC for a complimentary 30 minute phone session with any questions or concerns. 1-877-valu101 (1-877-825-8101), NC: 704-784-0260, NY: 516-285-8484.

 

Active Shooter a Microcosm of Our Society Impacting Workplace Safety and Security

Posted on: January 25th, 2017

Intro by Felix Nater…

In this article my Special Guest Blogger, Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Mike Wood, author of Newhall Shooting: A Tactical Analysis, and I collaborate to draw correlations between the threat of workplace homicides and the societal impact the active shooter and mass shooter has on everyone  no matter where we might find  ourselves.

 

Since we spend as much time at work as we do away from home, we believe whatever violence response training workplaces can provide must be as comprehensive and realistic as possible.

When workplaces make decisions to train on “Run, Hide and Fight” employers must understand that policies plans and procedures must be aligned. Can you tell an employee to fight as a measure of last resort when your workplace violence prevention policy says fighting or acts of aggression are against the policy?  This contradiction might freeze decisions and appropriate responses. Just saying!

 

When we tell the employee to run without proper training the employee might run into the shooter or while running away might be shot. Is there the possibility of creating unintentional civil liability consequences, which a skillful attorney might exploit during a civil lawsuit emanating from a serious injury or wrongful death allegation? I don’t know! What do you think?

 

It’s like “Zero Tolerance”–a well-intended policy but maybe too rigid and too structured. The employee who notices a co-worker exhibiting warning signs rationalizes his observations before reporting a co-worker knowing that his co-worker can be disciplined and even fired.

 

I do not encourage that workplaces undertake a frequency of an impractical training schedule on active shooter drills just because it is the right way to train. My point is that current training may not be addressing the workplace responsibilities or properly addressing the tactical common sense decisions needed to be taken.

 

What I do encourage is thoughtful training that realistically connects employee and management responsibilities and expectations. Training which fails to articulate what occurs in a real world shooting incident, and which only pushes out information, will assuredly produce more conflict, confusion, and misunderstanding, and increase risk for those involved.

Mike and I served in the military, where vital survival skills were reinforced through intensive,  repetitive training in order to make them more reflexive.  We understand that employers lack the time and resources to train to this standard, and it’s not realistic to expect that a workplace training program will build ” muscle memory” that makes responses automatic.

My law enforcement career as a United States Postal Inspector / Firearms Instructor and Threat Management Coordinator exposed me to realities typically encountered in the law enforcement community associated with serving search warrants, making arrests, car stops and training law enforcement personnel in scenarios they are most likely to encounter. Inherent in these scenarios are behaviors that must be understood and multiple simultaneous actions that must take place.

 

Well the same thing happens to employees or shoppers during a shooting incident. The “brain freezes” not intentionally but because there’s no stored information that the reflexes can draw upon. Fear overcomes the moment. There are tactics one can take to manage the moment that are not difficult to train to but can help the recovery process during the initial sounds of hysteria. When I audit this training I cringe at the lack of substance and correlation.

 

Suffice to say that we have expertise and specialized skills unlikely to be found in most workplaces. As such, training “employees” needs to create a training objective that allows employees to understand their actions, how to act out independently or in concert during the escape, evasion, evacuation procedures.

 

Because time, money and resources are limitations, training must bring clarity to what it is participants are most likely to encounter, what they need to “Know, Do and Why”. Absent clarity in the content presented will not improve survival and only add to the confusion.  There are tactics employees can take before encountering the shooter and encountering the police.

 

I am saying that training in active shooter / hostile intruder should be informative, enlightening, educational and realistic. To have real world value such training must empower the employee to know what to do and why, no matter where they may find themselves during an active shooting or mass shooting incident. If you are in a movie theater you know how to minimize risk. When caught in a mall or department store or open area know how to make better decisions.

 

* * * * *

Thoughts by Mike Wood…

The New Year had hardly begun when a terrorist killed scores in a shooting attack on an Istanbul nightclub, and we hadn’t even completed the first full month of 2017 when another shooter killed five and wounded more here in our own country, at the airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

 

While both of these attacks were horrific, neither was completely unexpected by those who were paying attention to the world around them.  We didn’t know the specifics of when and where the next “active shooter” attacks would take place, but we could be confident that they were on the way, in the same manner that we can predict there will be more to come.

 

We live in a world where the threats of attacks like these are ever-present.  Here in America, we have an increasingly violent criminal class which has become emboldened by failed public policies and the virulent anti-law enforcement culture which has taken hold in some communities.  Our mental healthcare system is broken, leaving untold numbers of emotionally disturbed persons, including many with violent tendencies, without access to proper care and supervision.  Additionally, there are a burgeoning number of foreign and domestic terrorists who would use violence to advance their political and cultural aims. In fact, our intelligence agencies have warned us that small-scale, asymmetric attacks like the Istanbul or Fort Lauderdale ones, are a preferred method of our enemy because they have a large impact while demanding very little in the way of resources or planning.

 

With all of these potential actors in play, it takes no imagination whatsoever to forecast that more attacks are coming.

 

So, what should you do about it?

 

The most important thing is to get your mind right. Accept the fact that it can happen to you. Doing so will help you to avoid the paralyzing effects of denial, and free your mind to solve important problems, should you find yourself subject to attack. Would you rather stand frozen in shock in the wake of an attack, or take immediate action to save yourself and others? The choice is yours to make, and it begins now with an acceptance of reality, and the appropriate programming of the mind.

 

Accepting that you could be the target of attack will allow you to change your behaviors in a positive and proactive way.  If you’re conscious of risk, then you’ll become more aware of your environment, and will do a better job of detecting and avoiding potential trouble. You’ll see the threats and indicators that people who walk around with their noses stuck to smart phone screens won’t, and you’ll have the time to avoid them. You’ll also do a better job of weighing costs and benefits, allowing you to avoid some unnecessary risks entirely, by opting out of the activities that would needlessly subject you to them.

 

Despite our best efforts to detect and avoid problems, trouble still has a way of finding us at times. In those cases, the more prepared we are to deal with trouble, the better off we will be.

 

From the perspective of mindset, we need to train ourselves that in an emergency (whether it’s a fire, a medical situation, or an attack), we will be active participants in our own rescue. If we are in danger, we must immediately take action to either remove ourselves from the threat, or terminate the threat, as conditions warrant. It would be nice to have help with this, but we cannot count on it, and we cannot delay our response until we receive it.  There is nobody who is more responsible for your personal safety than you, so you must take the lead role in rescuing yourself from danger.

 

Make that commitment now.  Train yourself to look for avenues of escape when you enter a room. Refresh yourself with the locations of alarms or emergency equipment in your workplace. Make mental notes of the things in your environment that could serve as cover, concealment, or makeshift weapons. Give yourself the permission to use righteous force in the defense of yourself or others. Mentally rehearse your response to an active threat. Take classes to educate yourself in first aid and self-defense, and ensure you have access to lifesaving equipment.

 

Do these things now, while you have the time and resources.  We know that more trouble is on the way, so the only question is whether or not you’ll be a victor or a victim when it comes.

-Mike

 

 

Workplace Violence Prevention – Proactive or Reactive

Posted on: November 16th, 2016

So what does workplace violence prevention mean to you?  https://www.naterassociates.com/what-does-workplace-violence-prevention-mean-to-you/

Is your Workplace Violence Prevention Policy a living document? A policy that is part of a process that began with senior management understanding, commitment and investment, supported by plans, procedures and training?  Can it withstand an unannounced OSHA Inspection because the OSHA 4 categories of workplace violence prevention and guiding principles are the foundation of your policy? Your Workplace Violence Prevention Initiative should have the appreciation of the workforce in understanding your concerns about their safety and security. The policy does not belong on the SHELF.

The intent of this Blog is to encourage organizations to create an organizational culture that reinforces the OSHA Workplace Violence Prevention guidance in developing your own prevention and violence response philosophy. I think OSHA has been ahead of the game for years, it’s just that some of us worried about “other people’s statistics”and what others were doing instead of worrying about your own data and what you should have been doing at our own workplaces.

Management commitment & investment. One approach is a model that focuses on the value of integration & collaboration of resources as a work in progress. Accepting that violence in workplaces is preventable & manageable when leaders employ a multi-dimensional & multi-disciplinary approach that holds itself accountable. Be Proactive!

  • Prepare  for the “WHEN,” not the “IF”
  • Recognize the realities and take appropriate measures
  • Maximize the value of shared resources
  • Enforce & support existing plans
  • Adopt innovative proactive strategies
  • Conduct internal and external ongoing self-assessments & validations

Workplace Violence Prevention Starts with The Recognition of the Aggression Behaviors and Managing The Outcome… https://www.naterassociates.com/workplace-violence-prevention-starts-with-the-recognition-of-the-aggression-behaviors-and-managing-the-outcome/

Proactive workplace violence prevention takes place when senior management understands the commitment and the needed investment in supporting quality training, policy, plans and procedures that prepare employees to be a part of the prevention methodology and security technology in the protection of the workforce and stakeholders.

“Workplace Violence Prevention is not the publication of policies that are managed in silos but a collaborative effort that promotes quality prevention strategy and training that helps identifies aggression before it escalates to physical violence.”

So what if anything are you doing to protect your organizations against their new enforcement directive? https://www.naterassociates.com/new-osha-directive-tackles-workplace-violence-concerns/

In the last 15 years, deaths resulting from workplace violence have ranked among the top four causes of occupational fatalities in American workplaces and remains in the top 5 areas of workplace security concerns.  In response to this serious threat to worker safety, OSHA released a new compliance and enforcement directives on Sept of 2011 that offers procedures for agency staff who respond to workplace violence cases or complaints. Caution is always recommended in assuming that compliance is prevention but it at least takes a leap forward in being proactive as a regulatory body.  If you don’t educate on the value of prevention, compliance merely becomes another checklist protecting the organization but doing very little for education and increased awareness.

“The Directive identifies several broad categories of workplaces that OSHA says are prone to workplace violence, including sites where employees work with the public or volatile, unstable people, sites where employees work alone or in isolated areas, sites where employees handle money or valuables, and sites at which employees provide services and care. The Directive goes on to describe other factors that can create the likelihood of workplace violence, such as working late at night or working in areas with high crime rates”.

Don’t wait or hesitate! Are you open to a different approach to workplace violence prevention? If you interested you may want to contact me. https://www.naterassociates.com/start-workplace-violence-training/

10 Practical Workplace Violence Prevention Tips to Energize Your Honorable Intentions

Posted on: February 15th, 2016

Workplaces tend to avoid developing comprehensive workplace violence prevention programs probably because they associate comprehensive with complicated. Comprehensive merely means taking a broad view of what workplace violence means and how it affects your workplace and workforce and applying appropriate strategies and measures. To me comprehensive can mean practical. Practical can apply to complex situations in breaking down assignments and responsibilities in coordinating the effort.

In this Blog, practical workplace violence prevention tips are just that, common sense, cost effective tactics that workplaces can implement and manage without investing a whole lot of money, time and energy spent arguing for or against logical implementation of prevention measures. Practical simply means KISS (Keep It Simple Silly). I would like workplace leadership to think in terms of small nuggets as in an ounce of prevention is worth a pound in cure. In short, it is hopeful that these 10 practical tips can dismantle the notion of being complicated in favor of developing an approach supervisors and security personnel can adopt. The intent of this discussion is to start a robust discussion that considers workplace violence prevention well within your own capability and ability to implement and manage interdependent, with minimal outside intervention.

Why is implementing and managing a workplace violence prevention initiative important to your pocketbook and brand?  According to the requirements established by OSHA (Occupational Safety Health Administration) employers are obligated to provide their employees with a place of employment that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm…to employees.” 

Creating an agile and proactive workplace violence prevention program insulates the workplace against possible charges of dereliction and negligence in civil liability law suits or by employee organizations. In addition, it sends a message that Zero Tolerance is not the definition of termination but of a proactive intervention strategy that looks at every reported incident for possible root causes and contributing factors. Creating credible complaint reporting system and hasty resolution process can benefit an organization when supervisors are actively engaged, as part of a culture of zero tolerance. Without a credible complaint reporting system employees lose trust and confidence in the workplace violence prevention policy. Credible reporting can be anonymous as well.

These suggested practical workplace violence prevention tips will not only energize workplaces or an educational institution’s prevention efforts, but “incentivize” the performance and initiative by avoiding OSHA citations. While these OSHA citations are not necessarily financially debilitating, they are a negative impact on the internal and external public image, adversely affecting the Brand, employee morale, performance and production.

Here are 10 Practical Workplace Violence Prevention Tips to help identify the potentially at risk workplace in preventing escalation, managing aggression and protecting the workforce. These tips are not intended to be the end all but a part of an ongoing integrated and coordinated seamless process:

  1. Review and reissue your Workplace Violence Prevention and/or Harassment Policy Statement annually if needed.
  2. Instruct and remind supervisors of their responsibility to report, document, assess and evaluate every complaint as part of the hasty complaint resolution effort.
  3. Take the time to review incidents in a timely manner to identify repeat offenders, repeat incidents, patterns, gaps in security and identifying situations requiring immediate attention.
  4. Instruct and remind employees that reporting at risk situations and employees is their responsibility in preventing escalation and at risk situations.
  5. Instruct and remind employees of the organization’s workplace violence prevention policy reporting protocols and procedures as necessary.
  6. Review your visitor protocol policy to include visitor management and access control for all visitors especially former employees, spouses and families.
  7. Review your domestic violence/intimate partner/personal relationship policy to ensure employees know what services are offered and what their responsibilities are.
  8. Train supervisors & managers in how best to hastily manage at risk situations in providing needed intervention.
  9. Test your emergency evacuation plan to respond to a hostile intruder/active shooter threat procedures.
  10. Managers should conduct frequent on site work-site specific assessments of employee work settings and operations.

“Because workplace violence prevention should be an ongoing process involving multiple intervention strategies, these tips can make the process cost-effective, proactive and seamless.”

Seamless can mean many things to different people, for the benefit of this Blog, seamless means the ability to integrate, collaborate and coordinate resources with little disruption, cost effectively, efficiently and routinely. In other words, you will not need to have a large human resource department fixated on prevention or an armed security force as an employee confidence builder or even a large budget.

Armed personnel are not immune from the societal, environmental or family risk factors. Investing a lot of money does not mean effective either.  The focus must be on “prevention.” What we really need is an organizational culture that understands leadership’s role in workplace violence prevention, preventing escalation, resolving conflict and managing aggression.

Experience teaches workplace violence prevention consultants that having a well-trained supervisory workforce in aspects of workplace violence prevention can be effective in managing the potentially hostile workplace and at risk work settings. Workplaces that recognize the value of prevention realize that having robust, agile and proactive (RAP) interdiction strategies really contributes to the cost-effective, seamless coordination and results.

For those of us who do not subscribe to the myths of workplace violence we’re ahead of the problem because proactive workplace violence prevention interdiction strategies are key in effectively reducing risks by managing potentially hostile situations and employees. We know that a proactive workplace violence prevention program creates a trusting workforce that believes that management’s effort are not just lip services, but a commitment and investment in workforce safety and security. This investment must start at the top with clear expectations and go to the bottom of the workforce and meet at the center in achieving understanding. I have seen this play out in several organizations with positive results.

Preventing workplace violence is a duty, legal and moral responsibility CEOs, Executive Directors and Agency Administrators have as part of their fiduciary roles. Those of us responsible for workplace violence prevention can benefit from having a robust, agile, and proactive approach in managing aggression, at risk situations and taking immediate corrective measures. If interested in moving in this direction the approach is not difficult?