Q. As the security leader for my company, I think it is important to be proactive and well prepared for any issue that might potentially have a negative impact on the business. In light of the incidences of violence in the news recently, I am planning to implement a baseline workplace violence prevention program. Can you give me some program design and implementation pointers?
A. I commend you for taking this initiative and cannot overstate the importance of having an intervention process as well as a plan in place in the event an incident should occur. I recommend developing a toolbox that contains the elements that are essential to a comprehensive workplace violence prevention program from which you can extract and implement the components that will help ensure a long-term plan for success.
In my opinion, a major component of that toolbox is the development of a workplace violence policy, as discussed in an earlier Faculty Advisor Q&A. Other vital elements of a good program include:
- Supervisor and manager roles
- Case management, including response options, metrics and reporting
- Access control
- Personnel safety
- A plan for dealing with domestic partner violence
There are several phases to consider when planning a workplace violence prevention program. The proactive, prevention and planning phase; the reactive phase when danger is imminent; the emergency phase that typically gives less than a 30-minute response window; and the business continuity phase that follows an event.
Training is an important part of the proactive phase. Employees, supervisors and managers need to know how to recognize the early warning signs of trouble. Employees who work together will be the first to notice changes in behavior in each other. Supervisors and managers need to know how and when to report issues while early intervention is still an option.
It is a good idea to establish an interdisciplinary team that is ready to convene on short notice to manage potentially violent issues. Security, human resources, legal, and employee assistance program (EAP) (if you have one) is a good start. Other disciplines may be on call to be brought in as needed. Typically, corporate security is the primary record keeper of potential workplace violence incidents. Keeping track of all of the facts involved in the incident including catalysts and classifications, actions taken, results and other historical information will provide a mechanism for producing reports for trend analysis, presentation to management and will be invaluable if there is a need to go to court.
Depending on the nature and severity of an issue, there are several types of response options to consider. For instance, an incident involving a bully will get a different kind of response from one that involves someone who has a medical or mental issue, or an employee who is the target of domestic violence. Each of the disciplines mentioned above have valuable expertise to bring to the table when managing and planning an intervention.
If your company does not have in-house resources to provide training and other types of consulting services, external professionals such as threat management professionals and trainers are good options. You may also need to consider hiring protective services personnel, including local off-duty law enforcement officers if needed.
Access control is very important. Remember it's not just employees that may commit workplace violence; it could also be contractors, vendors, customers, visitors, and even family members. Employees need to pay attention to who is on site. If someone doesn’t seem to belong they should be questioned about their presence and purpose. Train your employees how to approach and question these individuals and what to do if they seem suspicious, such as who to contact rather than confronting them.
The business continuity phase is also important for both the well-being of individuals and the business. The aftermath of a workplace violence incident may involve trauma and grief counseling, cleanup, debriefing, and media and public relations.
The impact of a workplace violence incident on your business can reach far beyond financial ramifications. In addition to the impact on employee morale and productivity, the effects of negative publicity, company reputation and property damage can be overwhelming. Training, planning and early intervention can go a long way towards protecting your company, people and property against workplace violence.
Our Workplace Violence Continuum and other additional resources are available on this topic.
Answer provided by Rosalind W. Jackson, Security Executive Council staff member.