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Workplace Safety/Security Course:
Workplace Violence and Intruder Response
Simply stated the mission of Workplace Intruder Response training is to provide businesses, corporations and governmental organizations with effective and practical training relating to the following:
- RECOGNIZING behavioral pre-cursors to “workplace violence” in given situations that have the potential to escalate
- PREVENTING escalation of behavioral pre-cursors relating to “workplace violence” by responding effectively
- RESPONDING effectively to “workplace violence” incidents if and when they occur
Although active shooter incidents within the workplace by disgruntled employees are events that receive intense media coverage we need to recognize that workplace violence of some sort takes place everyday in the United States. Some examples of these everyday workplace violence events that occur between co-workers and others with inter-personal relationships include threats, harassment, bullying, domestic violence, stalking, emotional abuse, intimidation, and other forms of behavior and physical violence. These lesser events if left unchecked may result in more serious violent behavior, including active shooters intent on mass murder in the workplace.
What is Workplace Violence?
Workplace violence is now recognized as a specific category of violent crime that calls for distinct responses from employers, law enforcement, and the community. Workplace Violence as defined by the U.S. Department of Labor (i.e. OSHA) as:
“Workplace violence is any physical assault, threatening behavior, or verbal abuse occurring in the work setting. A workplace may be any location either permanent or temporary where an employee performs any work-related duty. This includes, but is not limited to, the buildings and the surrounding perimeters, including the parking lots, field locations, clients’ homes and traveling to and from work assignments.”
While agreeing on that broader definition of the problem, specialists have also come to a consensus that workplace violence falls into four broad categories. They are:
- Violence by Strangers: Violent acts by criminals who have no other connection with the workplace, but enter to commit robbery or another crime.
- Violence by Customers/Clients: Violence directed at employees by customers, clients, patients, students, inmates, or any others for whom an organization provides services.
- Violence by Co-workers: Violence against coworkers, supervisors, or managers by a present or former employee.
- Violence by Personal Relationships: Violence committed in the workplace by someone who doesn’t work there, but has a personal relationship with an employee-an abusive spouse or domestic partner.
Many incidents which involve gun violence in the workplace, in fact, are reflective of the culmination of other lesser incidents of violence or threats of violence and which lead up to the ones which ultimately involve workplace shooting incidents and workplace intruder incidents.
Sensational multiple homicides that occur in the workplace represent a very small number of workplace violence incidents however the impact of active shooter workplace violence is very significant. Rationalizing or minimizing lesser incidents of that employees/managers have to deal with on a daily basis such as assaults, domestic violence, stalking, threats, harassment (to include sexual harassment), and physical and/or emotional abuse that could lead to much more serious incidents of violence that are likely to result in the workplace.
Like all violent crime, workplace violence creates ripples that go beyond what is done to a particular victim. It damages trust, community, and the sense of security every worker has a right to feel while on the job. In that sense, everyone loses when a violent act takes place, and everyone has a stake in efforts to stop violence from happening. The success of that effort will depend on the concern, actions and preparation of leaders, managers and employees within the workplace in establishing and enforcing workplace violence training, policies and programs.
Additionally employers have a legal and ethical obligation to promote a work environment free from threats and violence and, in addition, can face economic loss as the result of violence in the form of lost work time, damaged employee morale and productivity, increased workers’ compensation payments, medical expenses, and possible lawsuits and liability costs. Estimates of the costs, from lost work time and wages, reduced productivity, medical costs, workers’ compensation payments, and legal and security expenses, are even less exact, but clearly run into many billions of dollars.
What are the Legal Issues?
To some extent, the law puts conflicting pressures on employers and others concerned with preventing or mitigating workplace violence.
On the one hand, businesses are under a variety of legal obligations to safeguard their employees’ well-being and security.
- Federal Requirements – OSHA’s occupational safety laws require companies to maintain a safe workplace, which embraces safety from violence. For example, the “General Duty Clause” of the Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to have a workplace that is “free from recognized hazards.
- State Requirements – Workers compensation laws, similarly, make employers responsible for job-related injuries.
- Civil Requirements – Civil rights laws require employers to protect employees against various forms of harassment, including threats or violence. In addition, employers may face civil liability after a workplace violence incident on a number of grounds—if there was negligence in hiring or retaining a dangerous person, for example, or a failure to provide proper supervision, training or physical safety measures.
At the same time, the law requires employers to safeguard due process and other employee rights. Privacy, anti-defamation and anti-discrimination laws may limit an employer’s ability to find out about the background of a present or prospective employee. The possibility of a wrongful termination lawsuit can make a company reluctant to fire someone even when there is evidence that the person may be dangerous, and can make the process a long, difficult struggle if the company does decide to seek termination. Even the Americans with Disabilities Act can sometimes pose obstacles in dealing with a potentially violent employee. Employee rights and workplace safety concerns can also collide over such issues as whether and when a worker can be compelled to get counseling or treatment as a condition of keeping his job.
To a large degree, these dilemmas mirror the inherent tension in a legal system with dual objectives: protecting the general good, while also protecting individual rights. Just as in every other legal field, workplace safety law has to strike a balance between those two purposes. Balance is the key in developing AND enforcing a comprehensive workplace violence program.
Can it Happen at My Work?
Here are some facts when considering whether or not it “can happen” at your workplace. Recognizing that workplace violence (serious and lesser) occurs at almost all workplaces is the first step to preventing and preparing for an effective response. For example DID YOU KNOW?:
- 2 Millions Americans each year are victims of workplace violence of some sort
- 1,000 Americans are killed in the workplace each year
- 40,000 Americans are victims of aggravated assault in the workplace each year
- Workplace homicides account for 1 out of every 6 fatal occupational injuries each year
- More assaults occur in the healthcare and social service industry than any other occupation
Prevention & Preparation
Preventing and responding to violent or potentially violent intruders at our places of employment should include the development of policies and procedures to address the following:
- Informing & Enforcing “Zero Tolerance” as the expectation
- Behavioral pre-cursors to “workplace violence”
- Recognizing behavioral pre-cursors and effective intervention to such
- Developing atmosphere and support resources for open communication
- Physical Security Entry Access Protocols
- Program & Policy Development
- Lock Down Protocols
- Secure in Place vs. Immediate Evacuation Response Protocols
- Employee management & locating during “secure in place” decisions
- What to expect from the law enforcement response
- Liaison w/ local law enforcement response & coordination of emergency action planning