Q. I have been proactive and have prepared and disseminated what I think is a good workplace violence procedure for my organization. But how can I keep ahead of the game when it comes to planning and preparing to help ensure that my organization does not end up in an undesirable situation involving workplace violence?
A. One thought is to monitor current workplace violence events in the news and note any new trends. Are you seeing anything that may raise a red flag that causes you concern or anything that might have applicability to your organization? For example, if your offices are located in a large, multi-tenant building, news of a shooting in a high-rise building would likely provide the incentive to review lobby security and enhance access control procedures to your floors of business.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 18,400 workers in the private industry experienced trauma from nonfatal workplace violence in 2017, resulting in days away from work. Twenty-four percent involved 3 to 5 days away from work and 18% required 31 or more days away to recover. Think about how this could impact the organization and take every opportunity to communicate with senior management and enlist their support for your programs (e.g., training, access control, personnel safety, emergency response).
The BLS also states that shootings accounted for 77 percent (351 fatalities) of all workplace homicides in 2017. Stabbing, cutting, slashing, and piercing incidents accounted for another 10 percent (47 fatalities) of all workplace homicides in 2017. Although the most common type of assailant in workplace homicides in 2017 was robbers, coworkers were the assailants in 77 workplace homicides, and spouses or domestic partners were responsible for another 28 workplace homicides. We know and stress that active shooter training and preparation is important, but it is also very important to prepare for intimate partner incidents of violence in the workplace. Be sure to have a Domestic Violence Policy along with your Workplace Violence Policy.
Another area that may be overlooked in the workplace is the mental health of your most valued asset, your employees. The BLS Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFO) reports that in 2017, 275 workplace suicides occurred, representing about 5 percent of the 5,147 total workplace fatalities. Intervening in employee mental health concerns is a very delicate undertaking, and there needs to be a process or mechanism in place for recognizing the warning signs and handling them through appropriate channels within and/or outside of the organization (e.g., in-house Employee Assistance Program if you have one or a trusted and vetted forensic psychologist or psychiatrist available for consultation or Independent Medical Examination if needed). Remember as well that if someone is considering suicide, they are not only a danger to themselves but to others as well.
Legal and Human Resources are important arms of the Threat Management Team for a reason. Are you consulting with them, and are they informed and onboard with your ideals and goals? Negligent hiring is just one of many issues that can cause dire consequences for an organization. Take the time to consult with Legal and HR to ensure that your company is performing persistent, ongoing background screening not just on employees but on contractors and supply chain as well.
Are you communicating your concerns clearly to business and senior management? Are you keeping your Threat Management Team involved, even when there is no pressing issue or concern? Nobody likes to sit through pointless meetings, but it’s a good idea to have short, regularly scheduled update sessions to keep everybody in the loop. Do your businesses know to inform you ahead of time when planning staffing adjustments or troubling terminations, especially if they anticipate issues? There are many things that Security can do ahead of time to avoid trouble.
The point is to think outside the box, stay informed on current trends and issues, anticipate potential problems and formulate solutions before they happen. It will be well worth the effort.
Response provided by Rosalind Jackson, Security Executive Council staff member.