Is Workplace Violence a Real Threat?

Archive for the ‘Security’ Category

Is Workplace Violence a Real Threat?

Posted on: January 11th, 2015

Is workplace violence a real threat? Did you know that over the past 10 years, most significant surveys on the topic of workplace violence rated the threat of workplace violence in the top 5 security concerns? What does this say about the real impact it has on a business?

In a 2005 Department of Labor Special Survey it reported in 2006, nearly 5% of 348K of the establishments surveyed experienced an incident of workplace violence in the last year. While 1/3 reported a negative impact to employees, only 11% changed their policy after the incident; 9% of those had no program or policy. (Source: US Department of Labor, Survey of Workplace Violence Prevention, 2005) Since the 2005 survey, between 1992 and 2012, there were 14,770 workplace homicide victims, or roughly 700 a year on average, according to federal government statistics. Incidents involving firearms are of concern. Gun violence resulted in 78% of the workplace homicides in 2010. Because gun violence cases tend to get the most public attention, they may seem more prevalent than they actually are. Nevertheless, workplace must understand what is workplace violence prevention.

Though for the most part workplace violence is workplace related, it is always about work but something exacerbated at work. It’s easy to assume “disgruntled workers” are usually to blame. But that’s not necessarily the case. In about two-thirds of workplace homicides, the assailant has no known personal relationship with the victims, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These relate to public shootings.

Then there are instances where a victim of domestic violence may be attacked by an abusive partner at work, said Christine Walters, a workplace violence expert who advises the Society for Human Resource Management. FBI statistics suggest that employee victims and witnesses report their victimization and observations outside their workplaces. Employees want a credible, trusting workplace violence prevention initiative that’s accountable and responsible for problem resolution and not only  discipline. Sometimes we all become victims of circumstances.

Sitting and listening to warning signs and risk factors is important but many adults have experienced one or more of the warning signs. Does that make them at risk? Focus should be on recognizing aggression and aggressive behavior.

Today workplace’s still appear not to consider proactive workplace violence prevention and violence response a business-security priority. The tendency is for employer’s to save money by scheduling this important training to busy human resource, employee labor relations and training personnel who may or may not be qualified to credibly deliver such training. Justifying their budgets, employers are not delegating workplace violence prevention and violence response (active shooter) training to local police departments and other “free” offerings. Free from an experienced based consultant can have tremendous value when focused as part of your workplace violence prevention and workplace security planning considerations.

Did you know that the incidents which lead to workplace violence are business security concerns because it affects people, premises, property, image, performance, production, efficiency, morale and relationships. If one were to research the topic you would discover an encyclopedia of knowledge on the topic?

The survey said that employees can be affected by workplace violence in a number of ways including increased fear, lower morale and higher absenteeism. Employees in 36% of the establishments having incidents of workplace violence in the previous 12 months were negatively affected.

If that is so, why then is it that even though the Department of Labor’s 2005 Special Statistical Survey on the topic supports the discussion that workplace violence is a viable safety and security concern is the commitment perceived to be so anemic?

We suggest that the commitment requires an ongoing security awareness to protect people, premises property from internal and external predators that requires the use surveillance and monitoring technology, ongoing orientation and training seminars and unique policy and programs to address the problem.

The resultant negative image from one disgruntled employee’s act of violence can have an adverse impact on public and employee perceptions. In many cases as we saw in the Anthrax scare, post offices closed because employees did not feel safe and management did not want the risk.

The business bottom line is affected as reduced employee performance, production and efficiency become the other victims of the incidents of workplace violence.

Female employees rather quit or request transfers than be exposed to threats of violence or sexual harassment.

Injury compensation claims increase as employees find ways of hiding their victimization under different covered ailments to retain their employment thus innocently protecting those culpable and responsible.

A lack of confidence in management’s commitment and the possibility of increased harassment and victimization as a result of any report that are made are additional factors. Rather than feel the wrath of the perpetrator and even coworkers nothing is said.

Inordinate amounts of dedicated resources might be dedicated to investigate incidents of workplace violence in determining what protective measures to take.

And last but not least, employees and supervisors might not know that incidents of workplace violence begin with a bad word, name calling, a racial slur, a sexual innuendo, perceptions of disparate treatment, unfair selections for assignments, promotions and awards and the list goes on. These behaviors though considered inappropriate are not defined as unacceptable. Worst, the permissive environment creates acceptable behavior.

Incidents of workplace violence can lead to physical altercations, sabotage of personal and business property, theft of property, nuisance phone calls, stalking, harassment and verbal abuse & cyber security concerns.

I know of an elderly female employee who was the victim of constant harassment and verbal abuse by a younger male employee. Although resources were committed to investigate and curtail the behavior, the male employee continued harassing the elderly employee. To get even the employee intensified his attacks. One day the male employee was badly beaten. While correlation was never made between the victim’s sons and the assault, one can only imagine how this behavior can affect others.

Workplace Security and Event Security are Synonymous

Posted on: December 28th, 2014

Here is a light hearted approach to addressing event security and the relevance to workplace security. When discussing the level of security at your workplace or at an event, both have synonymous meanings to the security expert, the differences being the type of facility and the type of guests. The added value found at the event is a potential gathering of key personnel with their staff from companies promoting a product or assessing the potential value a product or service. Usually they gather to meet others but often to validate the need for a product or service. In any case, we have a gathering of prospective clients from a variety of cities, states and possibly countries who might not want to take the risks.

How willing are key personnel to travel to events or exhibits following September 11, 2001 and the increased sense of security especially essential for key personnel? To attract the right persons to attend events and exhibits, security measures and precautions must consider the concerns of guests who might want to attend but are not certain of the Event Planner’s capability to provide adequate security protective measures.

Travel and event security is another synonymous partnership inseparably linked to any diminished interest and attendance on the part of Fortune 500 firms who do not want to risk the safety and security of their key personnel whose exposure might be an appealing target to terrorists, kidnappers or hostage takers. Event Security and Workplace Security are also tied to Travel Security; all require a Threat Assessment and Risk Plans. Gone are the days of convenient travel and in are the stringent security measures and travel delays. Attendance at events has to have measurable appeal before an investment is made in attending. How confident are event planners in believing that the event is worth the inconvenience without the consideration of any security planning or a security conscious environment capable of addressing most situations including emergency evacuation, crisis communication and emergency preparedness to include hospital and first aid treatment coordination.

Event Planners that do not factor the security needs of key personnel as a value selling point might be missing an opportunity to show the maturity of the event planning process in terms of safety and security. Such oversight might discourage key personnel from attending or firms from sending their representatives. Event planning and security are appealing selling points worthwhile considering that must be exploited in order to provide a workplace environment for the exhibitors and guests that consider their personal safety and security. Long gone is the notion that security is taken for granted by both the potential attendee and the event participants. With an ever increasing security awareness and presence of professional security personnel on staff, key personnel are more aware of potential threats due to risk assessment and the value of attending an event.

To attract the right guests, Event Planners might want to consider integrating security planning with the event planning process. This added feature does not require full time resources but the advice, recommendations and assistance of an expert during the event. Having this resource will enhance the Event Planner’s reputations while bolstering the planner’s image in the eyes of the guests who perceive safety and security assurances. Generally speaking getting the right person to an event probably will entail a threat and risk assessment to convince the target audience of your capability to provide assurances for a safe and secure event.

An event security plan might consider deploying plainclothes security personnel, uniformed personnel at entrances and occasional patrols, access and egress controls, CCTV and public announcement system capabilities, badges for everyone, lockers or storage areas for exhibitor’s personal belongings, parking lot patrols, first aid equipment at strategic locations and trained personnel familiar with the local medical facilities, coordination with local police and fire departments and a hasty emergency preparedness plan for the event specific workplace. These are but a few recommendations you might consider when planning an event and expecting to draw a larger participation. Remember, street level crimes are popular in such settings so access control must be enforced. Personnel issued badges must wear them. Those not wearing them must be challenged. Thefts are not discovered until the perpetrator has left the area, pickpockets love crowded areas, computers grow feet, pocketbooks and carrying cases disappear and cars are stolen.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

Workplace Security – The Emerging New Threat

Posted on: October 26th, 2014

Contents

  1. Workplace Violence Remains a Business Concern
  2. The Emerging Threat
  3. Case Study

Workplace Violence Remains a Business Concern

From all available research and recent studies, Workplace Violence continues to be a major business security threat facing the workplace today followed by Business Continuity/Business Interruption and Terrorism, Pinkerton Security Survey. Dr. Robert F. Hester in article entitled: Business Continuity for Small Businesses said, Safety, security and preparedness aren’t routinely a focus in our lives. Being on guard is not something Americans are used to or like doing. Still danger and threat never goes away; only fades in memory.”

The Emerging Threat

The use of email and the internet by disgruntled employees who wish to cause a person or a business harm is the new emerging threat causing business executives considerable angst, so say a variety of current surveys and research.

While traditional company approaches suggest that the problem typically deals with the hostile behavior of a disgruntled employee or the escalation of disputes between employees; security directors also include the risk posed by the armed robber and the opportunity criminals as workplace security concerns.

That was the traditional perspective. Not factored into the traditional equation is the calculated threat posed by the “Insider” who has privileged access to the company Intra net, business email, company files, remote access and management, and oversight via his or her computer. The advent of remote access has further muddied the waters.

New, non-traditional approaches to the Prevention of Workplace Violence and Workplace Security do not disqualify any potential threat to the safety and security of the workplace, hence the discovery of new more potent threats. These new approaches require an analytical perspective that looks beyond the walls and into the world of minimized detection and maximum damage.

No longer should responsible officials limit their scope to preventing escalation of violence between employees; companies are at risk. New, harder-to-detect methods have arisen for employees to exact revenge or “make a point”.

One new retaliatory measure at employees’ disposal involves network “privileged access”. Devastating damage can be inflicted using such access. While we await the other “Threats from Within – the Terrorist” to strike, the new “lying in wait” culprit is the “privileged user” who might be a current employee, former employee, vendor or contractor with access…who has an ax to grind or score to settle.

What makes this perpetrator extremely dangerous and drastically effective is access. The physical access controls that deny unauthorized intruders do not deny the privileged user access.

“For many years external security threats received more attention than internal security threats, but the focus has changed. While viruses, worms, Trojans and DoS are serious, attacks perpetrated by people with trusted insider status – employee, ex-employees, contractors and business partners-pose a far greater threat to organizations in terms of potential cost per occurrence and total potential cost than attacks mounted from the outside”. (“The Enemy Inside”, Kristin Gallina Lovejoy, CSO, April 2006).

Following this thought process, one quickly surmises the magnitude and capability of this perpetrator’s reach. Gone are days of risking exposure; this perpetrator chooses to wait for the opportunity, lay a trap, sabotage systems, disrupt operations and even transfer company files to competitors. “Getting even” takes on new dimensions.

And so, now we have a new, broader profile and threat to contend with. The traditional “going postal” profile: Males, 17-60 years of age, holds a technical position, being married… does not matter any more.

The new profile is racially and ethnically diverse and can come from a broad pool of employees. These are the new suspects. Common amongst perpetrators, though, is the perception of victimization and revenge and the facility of theft of information, conflicting interest, abuse of privileges and disgruntled behavior. Whereas the act of violence is physical in orientation, the Internet or Computer Predator chooses this medium of retaliation that is cleaner and has a faceless victim.

Case Study:

An employee of a major government agency, feeling victimized by coworkers and sensing no intervention by management, resorts to acts of retaliation and revenge.

Initially he adapts to the common threats of physical harm, which include use of his vehicle, and verbal threats through the escalatory phases, which included death threats. Fortunately, he did not ever get the chance to deliver on his believed threat. While searching the internet for bomb making materials, his unsuspecting supervisor happened on his computer terminal accidentally, as he returned from an early lunch. He found the employee browsing at what appeared to be a bomb-making website.

Sensing a serious breach of user privileges, superiors were notified and the computer was isolated and confiscated. An examination of the hard drive revealed an interesting forensic footprint.

Upon investigation, it was disclosed that the employee was on the last phase of his bomb-making venture, having left the purchase of the last ingredients as the last step.

The employee admitted to his actions but denied his intentions. Because his intent was not clearly established, no criminal charges were lodged. Suffice it to say, anyone can see the potential for, and potency of the power of abuse, for a computer with its built-in tools.

Why does this new approach matter? It matters because the workplace is the most exposed target for any predator with a revenge motivation, a terrorist bent or driven by greed and manipulation. Countermeasures call for a return to astute vigilance and new policies.

What can you implement immediately? Change passwords for ex-and former employees. Lock out contractors, vendors and business partners at the conclusion of official business dealings, and establish clear policies, guidelines and procedures – with consequences for breaches and criminal violations.

To efficiently evaluate all visible and camouflaged areas of risk, create experience-based policy development by consultation with a qualified security consultant.

When the policies have been set, secure the mindset and daily habits of managers and employees with follow-up implementation and education by the security consultant.

Not every company is fated to become a victim statistic in a publicized study or survey. Use a broad, new approach. In addition to securing against Workplace Violence using traditional methods, protect against the new, emerging threats that cause concerned managers considerable angst, engage a Security Consultant when necessary, and protect the health of employees and your business.