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 concers 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?

What are your thoughts?