Workplace Violence Prevention You Can Implement Now
Recently, incidents of severe workplace violence have made frequent headlines. These include nine tragic deaths at a Connecticut beer distributorship, and the loss of four lives resulting from a pension disagreement, at a St. Louis company.
Co-worker homicides (where an employee murders a co-worker) numbered 72 in 2009. That’s about 1 in 7 of all workplace homicides that year. The remaining deaths are most often the result of a robbery attempt, though some are acts of visitors who know an employee, and intend violence. A recent shooting in Albuquerque, sparked by an argument over child custody between an employee and her visiting boyfriend, killed three manufacturing employees. A sad, classic case of Domestic Violence Spillover, the shooter murdered his girlfriend and two others, then killed himself, as happened in the Connecticut and St. Louis cases, which had different origins.
Tragic scenes like these are akin to terrorist events, in the sense that they may be “targeted violence” – a planned attack on specific persons at a certain location. Such attacks might not be intended to result in fatalities but can easily escalate to deadly circumstances.
Deadly or not, violent acts at work remain common. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that one in every four American workers will be attacked, threatened, or harassed at work sometime in the course of their career.
Not enough is being done by businesses to prevent this trend. The bureau says that about 70% of workplaces never issue any violence prevention policy. This is particularly disheartening since it’s easy to obtain a key to prevention known as Threat Assessment Management (or TAM).
At Findlay All Hazards, we conduct informal polls at training events. Our results show that 80% of the private-sector organizations we work with have never engaged in workplace violence TAM. Initiating TAM is a step that we believe is essential in reducing violent events.
TAM is a behavior-based analysis that helps an organization identify potential cases of targeted workplace violence, so that the business may intercede before any violence occurs. Total commitment from the organization is the most important step. TAM requires a company-wide education and reporting system and a plan for how react to potential or realized violence.
American businesses fail to complete an assessment for predictable reasons. They believe that such an effort will be prohibitively expensive, or don’t recognize the need (“It won’t happen here”), or don’t know where to begin.
Implementing a TAM program may not be as costly as you think. Excellent TAM models exist in public sources. And no matter the cost, it’s certainly less costly than a deadly incident, in both human and financial terms.
Ignoring a need because “our company is safe” is unwise. None of the companies described above were expecting a shooting incident, of course.
And finding a starting place is as simple as a search of appropriate government websites. OSHA addresses the workplace violence issue with a series of worthwhile documents at osha.gov. The U.S. Secret Service offers a document called Threat Assessment: An Approach To Prevent Targeted Violence at secretservice.gov that we’ve found to be a valuable threat assessment primer.
Any business will benefit from an in-house review of the many widely available free resources and reports addressing the subject. Once a company learns their level of specific risk, they can easily introduce methods for conflict resolution and improved security that could prevent violent episodes and deadly tragedies.