One of the primary security risk management priorities our clients are concerned about – especially in the United States – is workplace violence prevention. To understand the scope of this challenge, consider these metrics:
- Between 1992 and 2012, there were 14,700 workplace homicide victims, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI). On average, 1.7 million people annually are victims of a violent crime while working – an average of 700 homicides per year. These figures do not include the greater number of casualties injured in a workplace violence incident.
- The Consumer Product Safety Commissions’ National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) has calculated that more than 137,000 employees were treated in emergency departments for nonfatal assaults just in 2009 alone.
Prevention Requires a Layered and Integrated Plan
Companies can’t just lock down facilities or post armed guards at every entryway. But they can undertake many prudent, relatively low-cost countermeasures that can reduce the risk of a violent event in the workplace. These actions, however, generally need to occur well in advance of a potential incident. Taking a proactive, prevention-oriented methodology to identifying, assessing and managing risk should be the priority. This needs to be done before an incident occurs.
Three Critical Steps to Ensure Safety
- Examine all policies and processes across your organization that relate in critical ways to workplace violence prevention. This review should include, for example, background screening; termination procedures; HR communicating with the security team; protocols and guidelines of the Employee Assistance Program, including “duty to warn” requirements, hotline and emergency procedures; and liaison with third-party first responders among many other areas. You can have best-in-class components but if they’re integrated poorly or include critical gaps, you will not be managing this risk effectively.
- Complete a workplace violence needs assessment. Evaluate the policies, procedures and processes. Most companies have a zero tolerance policy on workplace violence, but is a substantive program in place? Have you instituted a threat assessment capability, whether in-house or outsourced? Make sure you have a robust security awareness training program that teaches employees what to look for. Don’t allow the puzzle pieces to be put together after the incident occurs!
- Create an Active Shooter Plan to guide your preparation for and response to a deadly act of violence. The plan should address four key components critical to safeguarding your workforce: (1) prevention and mitigation, (2) preparedness, (3) response, and 4) recovery. Once you have it – train it. Practice your plan and conduct tabletop exercises until every one of your staff knows the plan forwards and back.
Violence Prevention Planning, Training and Awareness Has Multiple Positive Outcomes
Workplace violence is principally about saving lives. But a well-designed program also generates many other positive business outcomes:
- Confidence among employees that the company cares about their safety and is deeply invested in identifying early warning signs that can help indicate an individual’s likelihood of engaging in a violent act – and has established the capability to actively and continuously assess and manage cases well before an actual crime has been committed and law enforcement responds.
- Business continuity and resilience plans as well as the corrosive impact of a violent act on workforce morale and productivity.
- Lower future costs associated with violence-related lawsuits, settlements and compliance penalties emerging from incidents poorly managed by the corporation.
We’ll never eliminate the risk of workplace violence. But we can get much, much better at preventing it and mitigating its traumatic consequences.