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

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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?

 

What Does Workplace Violence Prevention Mean to You?

Posted on: September 9th, 2015

First off, what does your workplace violence prevention efforts look like to you? Is it a living document, a policy supported by plans and procedures? Is it reinforced with appropriate training? Can it withstand an unannounced OSHA Inspection? You have to be honest with yourselves in answering these questions if, you really want to dump the old and start out with the new ways of looking at WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION. An effective approach clarifies expectations, provides examples and implements policies, plans and procedures.

I am emphasizing the reliance on the helpful OSHA definitions, tools and support. I am asking you to create a proactive organizational response that reinforces their effort with the OSHA Workplace Violence Prevention guidance in developing your own prevention response. I think OSHA has been ahead of the game for years, it’s just that some of us worry about other people’s statistics and what others were doing instead of worrying about what your organization (workplace / educational institution) should have been doing at your own workplace setting.   

It doesn’t matter whether you are a school, college, university, processing or production plant, warehouse, government organization, office building, hospital, movie theater, mall or news station, you should consider a plan to prevent the threat of violence and minimize the risk of violence from a disgruntled coworker, intimate partner spillover into the workplace or the opportunistic criminal during an armed robbery or physical attack.  The plan must begin with an understanding of what WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION IS. While the belief is that larger organizations are adequately prepared, startups, small and midsize businesses are not immune from addressing workplace violence prevention. Their risk are higher when it comes to recovery and business continuity.”

Investing in a serious commitment to WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION is not a joke. You must first accept the reality that workplaces have a moral, ethical and legal obligation to provide for a safe and secure workplace for your workforce and stakeholders.  We are not just talking about employee on employee violence but, non-employee on employee violence and violence associated with armed robberies and other crimes of opportunity by criminals. However the tendency to wait for the “if” it happens will not allow you to have an effective WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION initiative. It requires a proactive mindset. Thinking about the minor nonviolent psychological incidents that can escalate and lead to conflict and confrontations tomorrow must be addressed today. These are known existing hazards that OSHA refers to in their regulations.

How many workplaces can honestly say that they design prevention measures intended to address the current employee threat, the former employee threat and or the domestic or intimate partner workplace spillover violence threat?  How many workplaces actually provide their field personnel, sales personnel and repairmen orientations and training on responsible behavior and risk mitigation measures?  That’s prevention at its best or its worst. How engaged is your Workplace Violence Prevention initiative? What are you waiting for?

So what does WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION mean to YOU? What does your program look like? Is it proactive or reactive?  A proactive WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION policy requires an investment in training your workforce in ways that help them understand what workplace violence is, what is the meaning of prevention and how to respond to non-violent at risk situations as well as violent threat posed by current and former coworkers and an active shooter or hostile intruder? How many CEOs, COOs, HR or Security Directors know that WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION is an ongoing process that involves multiple intervention strategies? A mouth full? YES! BUT, PREVENTION by it definition is the act of preventing.

So if prevention is the action of prevention it implies enthusiasm in what we do. Thus, enthusiasm and being proactive go hand in hand. Hence prevention is the process of preventing workplace violence.”  

If you know that you have a problem employee, remote employee workforce, employees that deliver service related customer services or that often engage with the public, you have an obligation to increase the employee’s ability to protect themselves and make independent decisions in the face of danger or how to recognize warning signs and at risk situations and personnel. With knowledge and awareness of prevention measures the workforce is empowered to make better decisions about managing the outcome when dealing with disciplinary issues, employee misconduct or at risk conditions. Remember! Prevention requires responsible supervision and leadership. Do not treat discipline as a “GOTCHA” because it can GET YOU.

Workplace Violence Prevention can run the gamut and is only limited by the program manager’s lack of enthusiasm, commitment and imagination. But for the sake of this discussion let’s throw out  a few multiple intervention strategies and tactics that could save the day: positive communications, engaged leadership, effective supervision, performance coaching, EAP counseling, managing one’s  behavior, approach to situations, engaging customers, working in high crime areas, traveling, entering building and elevators just to name a few.

Proper WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION is comprehensive but should not be complicated even though we know that workplace violence is a complex societal and environment reality. Nevertheless, WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION is a proactive process that focuses on the “when” and not the “if”.  Preparing for the “if” makes an assumption that the likelihood of any violence occurring is a small risk not worth spending our money on waiting for something to happen.  The thought seems to be that   “if” an act of violence or serious threat should happen we can call in the police to handle the threat. Whether your organization designs a methodological approach or defers capabilities to external consultants and the local police, the workforce must understand relevant terms in avoiding assumptions. Connecting the dots does not happen in a vacuum. It emanates from training content that supports the policy, plans and procedures in helping the workforce relate to warning signs, aggression, predisposition and opportunity. Leaving clarity to the workforce will not result in early warning or a proactive response. It becomes a wait and see attitude.

This is a bad attitude that will not only place the workforce at risk but place your unprepared approach in a collision course with a civil liability law suit, bad press or bad publicity. 

This  wait and see attitude is exactly what you do not want to be associated with. This attitude increases personnel risk and organizational risk as victims and witnesses will assuredly tell it like it is on the witness stand of truth. We know where to find the skeletons and in which closets they are hiding in.  I don’t know of any hard-working, trusting employee who when confronted with answering questions about a workplace injury or fatality will graciously protect their employer in the face of a charge of willful negligence. Don’t be fooled that loyalty is your payoff.  When co-workers are seriously injured by a workplace offender or killed incident to an active shooter or armed robbery encounter your trusted workforce will come out of the woodwork or be found by a sharp reporter working the crowd. 

Such a trusted employee witness will reluctantly tell his or her side of the story because they’ve known you’ve never taken WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION seriously.

Being compliant is a good thing but, it is NOT PREVENTION. CRISIS MANAGEMENT IS NOT PREVENTION. Think of WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION as your workplace security insurance policy. In remembering the old Lee Myles Transmission advertisement, “Pay me now or pay me later” can easily apply in workplaces that were too smart for their bridges, too cost conscientious  or who decided that workplace violence prevention could wait until next year’s budget.  Don’t even think that way today.

Workplace Security for Small to Midsize Businesses

Posted on: October 12th, 2014

Contents

  1. Workplace Security for Small to Midsize Businesses…
  2. Understanding the Mutual Need to Invest…
  3. Motivational Reasons to Invest…

1.) Workplace Security for Small to Midsize Businesses…

Since September 11, 2001 surveys, polls and research suggests that a majority of small to midsize businesses are not yet prepared to handle a terrorist attack, let alone a natural catastrophe. The research suggest that this segment of our business society is thirsting for information and looking for leadership. However, it does appear this community is willing to invest in security but, are not yet in a position to make costly investments without a clear understanding of the value. There is no debate on the need and the awareness to do something but, they want to know “who” will work with them and “how” will their needs be addressed? Knowing the existence of risks is understandable; however closer to home is the question, “how” will it improve the situation and show a Return on the Investment (ROI) after my commitment? In arriving at this understanding, some perspectives will be presented that might encourage an investment based on a collective accord on the “why” and the “how”.

2.) Understanding the Mutual Need to Invest…

Understanding is the vitally important link, if we in the security industry are to sufficiently convince this segment of the value to invest. While the small to midsize business community remains an important connection to our day-to-day lives, it remains an untapped security market. There are synergies to stimulate positive relationships that must be tapped regardless of the perceptions. Insufficiently energized since September 11, 2001, one speculative reason might be that the security industry and this community have not really talked to each other about the unique needs and the perceptions. Suggesting that this market was not yielding any market interest could be further from the truth. I have found a keen interest on both sides; however, the common denominator preventing a decisive step to move forward involves a lack of time, money, sufficient knowledge and dedicated resources to address their concerns.

These realistic reasons might be unintentionally contributing to their current vulnerability. Of concern is that this threat or vulnerability is not just to the potential of a terrorist strike, but a general inability to respond in the wake of a natural disaster, power outage, water or fire damage, human error, death of key staff, labor dispute, hostage taking, workplace violence, bomb threat, HVAC failure/temperature inadequacy or any industrial mishap requiring emergency evacuation or protective measures. Assuming CEOs and other decision makers recognize these as their day-to-day concerns, why then has there not been a mutually concerted effort to bridge the inhibitors cited above to reach a greater understanding for the need?

My theoretical answer to these questions, suggests that this community has not been presented the benefit of the expertise in a simple, uncomplicated and understandable manner as the other awaited the “hot-button need” or for the catastrophe that will justify the investment. The reality is that this business segment has unique but realistic concerns that must be addressed. Unfortunately, the lack of true understanding keeps the security and business community at arms-length as practicality is avoided. In reality, his segment’s security needs might be imbedded in their day-to-day safety and security concerns and not the threat of terrorism.

3.) Motivational Reasons to Invest…

There are many reasons to invest in this market! Since the research suggest there is a lack of time, money, knowledge and resources, designing an approach to address these challenges might be a solution. Instead of making security a complex process let us tailor the need to the individual client, provide security awareness and follow-up support to insure the need is addressed and concerns minimized. Whenever I present the value of security awareness, I am reminded of a Long Island firm that made the investment in security technology but failed to teach the employees the value of the technology. While visiting with the CEO on two separate occasions, access was easily gained without as much as a challenge. In one incident, my cordial greeting was enough to disarm the employees and in the second incident, I merely walked in through a door held open with a woodchuck placed there by employees taking a smoke break.

Since it is believed this lack of understanding my drive the lack of purchase, the use of case studies and lessons learned become important in demonstrating the value of the implementation. So, why not tailor the security need to situations this segment is more apt to experience and value such as chemical spills, exposure to contaminants, victimization by criminals, disruptions due to workplace violence and natural disaster, and fire and all the other possibilities mentioned above?

Taking a practical approach might be a stronger motivational tact that could have appeal. Keeping security methodology simple might trigger yet another motivational strategy to address their lack of resources. Involving employees in the security process is certainly another approach to show value. Promoting the that the investment be undertaken in “little chunks” might encourage a greater appreciation for the need and increase preparedness by employing realistic and uncomplicated security plans and programs.

Another approach to the “little chunk” analogy might be the value of making minimal yet inexpensive changes that will cost little more than time and effort to close the existing security gaps. Pursuing these approaches might insure some measures are in place “Now” to insure readiness, avoid allegations of due diligence shortfalls or suggestions of irresponsibility and malfeasance. Lastly, instead of the buying motivation being driven by the proverbial “fear” approach we might build a client following based on the clear understanding of the need. These strategies factored by a prioritized understanding that “little chunks” can bring about a greater degree of security preparedness rather than doing nothing will greatly enhance this business segments security posture.