LAKE FOREST, CA — October 26, 2010 — As businesses are starting to emerge out of one of the worst recessions we have seen there are many competing issues for limited resources. In a recent survey conducted by Security Directory News workplace violence was rated the top issue of concern with roughly 49% of respondents. With this level of concern by Security professionals organizations need to think long and hard about allocating resources to combat this life threatening issue that can not only cause employees to lose their lives, but severely impact the reputation and public image of their organization. Preeminent workplace violence expert, W. Barry Nixon, Executive Director, National Institute for the Prevention of Workplace Violence, Inc., has released the “Ten Key Lessons Learned From Incidents in the 21st Century” with the goal to help organizations to adapt this knowledge to their workplace to improve their violence prevention efforts. The lessons give both public and private organizations key insights to interventions and tools that they can implement in their workplaces that will help to reduce the likelihood of workplace violence.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 500,000 victims of violent crime in the workplace lose an estimated 1.8 million workdays each year; an astounding $55 million in lost wages for employers. The prevention of workplace violence needs to become a high priority for any business that values its employees, reputation and future sustainability.
These key lessons were gleaned from high profile workplace shootings at Virginia Tech, CNN, Binghamton American Civic Association, Fort Hood, Penske Truck Rental, Ohio State, University of Alabama, Emcore Fiber Optics, Kraft Foods to name a few as well as many lessor reported incidents.
1. Prevention Cost Are Infinitesimally Small Compared to the High Cost of an Incident
The cost of an workplace violence shooting incident can be astronomical compared to prevention and preparedness cost. Our research found that there is a 20 to 1 ratio. An example of an incident cost is Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University which has been reported as incurring $8 million in expenses as a result of the events that occurred on April 16, 2007.
2. Workplace Violence Prevention is Everybody’s Business
Employees can play a critical role in helping to prevent workplace violence by embracing their organizations focus on creating a violent free work environment. Organizations should invest resources and time on increasing employee awareness of importance of reporting threats and incidents. Reporting procedures and contact information should be absolutely clear and widely understood.
On the organizations side it is also critical that the `left hand talk to the right hand.’ Too often there is important information about an employees’ problematic behavior in one part of the organization that is not shared and other functions are not made aware of the situation.
3. Threat Assessment Begins Before An Individual Is Hired
Thorough background and reference checks are critical interventions that when done well can oftentimes detect problems that signal the potential for future problems. Also integrity, honesty and threat assessment tools are getting better and better and should be considered as part of an arsenal of pre-employment screening to help organizations avoid making bad hires.
In addition too many organizations fall prey to the belief that once a pre-employment assessment is satisfactorily passed that an employees’ behavior will remain good over the life time of their employment. The fact that 64% of fraud incidents are perpetrated by employees and incidents of employees stealing identities, information and property are rampant debunk this belief. To combat fraud organizations need to conduct Infinity Screening (post hire employment checks) to start to identify problems and weed them out before serious damage is done.
Also according to a Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) report – At Work in 2020′- It is estimated that 500 million people – or double the number today — will legally work outside their countries in the next 20 years. This means that more firms will need to implement more vigorous processes for investigating backgrounds of foreign nationals.
4. Early Identification of Threats is Important
Organizations need to significantly increase their knowledge and awareness of the full range of aberrant behaviors and events that may indicate an increased risk for the potential for an individual to commit violence. In line with this organizations need to implement an `individual threat assessment’ process to ensure that proper evaluation occurs of problem individuals and appropriate guidance is provided regarding the right steps to take to mitigate risk.
A recent study reviewed 1,800 incidents of workplace violence over the past 26 years and concluded that there were warning signs in 71 percent of the time.
5. A Systematic Approach to Threat Intervention is Necessary
Organizations must establish an array of possible interventions to address identified `risk’ ranging from a supervisor dialoguing with an employee to HR dialoguing with the employee to a referral to EAP to Fitness for Duty Assessment and Formal Threat Assessment.
6. Workplace Violence Shooter Incidents Require A Rapid Transition From Normal Operations To Ensure Effective Disaster Response.
Organizations need to develop mass warning and notification capabilities with the ability to warn all personnel within 10 minutes of incident notification and immediately mobilize their crisis response efforts. This is a tall order that requires extensive advance preparation efforts that include first responders to ensure an integrated response. Ensure you have a clear emergency number for employees to call, regularly communicate this information and practice your crisis response. The Fort Hood response to their shooting incident illustrated how a well planned and rehearsed crisis response effort can reduce the carnage and save peoples’ lives.
7. Active Shooter Preparation is Essential
Train all personnel in `Active Shooter’ life preservation tactics and if feasible, include First Responders to enhance their understanding of your business environment and to have a coordinated response.
8. It’s Not Whether Your Organization Will Experience A Domestic Violence Incident, It’s When
Violence is a desperate attempt of a person to gain control over a situation they are confronted with and intimate relationships unfortunately have demonstrated their capability to bring out the worst in human behavior. Organizations need to face the reality that domestic violence happens far too often in the workplace and begin to address this as an organization problem.
Organizations such as the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence and Violence Prevention Fund have a wealth of information on how organizations can address domestic violence in the workplace.
9. Conflict Is Inevitable, but Violence Is Not
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the leading circumstance that leads to homicide is conflicts between people who know each other. This strongly suggests that conflict resolution skills are important and that organizations should make conflict resolution a core competency for supervisors and employees. Resolving conflicts and having skills in how to defuse a hostile situation at an early stage is a strong beginning to preventing issues from escalating to violence.
10. Learning the Hard Way
Studies reveal that organizations usually have a better response to a disaster the second time around. But the extent to which a company prepares for a reoccurrence depends on whether it asked the right questions and learned the right lessons the first time. We believe that waiting to learn from an initial event is pathetic and that firms can learn from other organizations events and through practice drills.
These lessons are just a snap shot of some of the proactive actions that organizations should be taking to combat workplace violence. For a thorough coverage of the subject and a full review of workplace violence issues go to www.workplaceviolence911.com.
Mr. Nixon is Founder and President of the National Institute for the Prevention of Workplace Violence, Inc. He is a recognized expert in Workplace Violence Prevention, a sought after speaker, an accomplished writer, has appeared on major news shows including ABC, MSNBC and NBC and was recently named one of the most influential people in Security by Security Magazine. He also was recently appointed by SHRM to serve on their Special Expertise Panel for Occupational Health, Safety and Security and also represents SHRM on the joint effort with ASIS International to create the first Workplace Violence Prevention standard.
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W. Barry Nixon can be reached at 949-770-5264 or emailing him e-mail protected from spam bots.
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