Violence in the Workplace and How to Prevent It
Twenty-six years ago, I began my career at Digital Equipment Corporation as a Northeastern Coop Student, having no idea what a TOV (Threat of Violence) was or even meant. Today, after being involved in a number of these situations, it strikes me as to the number of people who fall victim to this senseless tragedy each year.
Recently, I read an outstanding article published in Security Director News regarding this topic, which was written by Leischen Stelter. It states that more than 5,900 people have been a victim of homicide in the workplace in the last 10 years, with workplace homicides being the third leading cause of death for people at work. The sad fact is that this number is actually much higher, due to the fact that it does not take into account the number of attempts or suicides.
This does have a financial impact as well, estimating that workplace violence nationwide costs around $121 billion a year. They state that non-fatal workplace assaults alone result in $16 million in lost wages.
In addition, 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.
Additional hidden costs of workplace violence include:
- Loss of moral and increased stress
- Lower productivity in victims of post-traumatic stress disorder
- Higher workers' compensation costs
- Negative publicity (Just ask the post office!)
- Hardship to victim's family
The prevention of workplace violence needs to become a high priority for any business that values its employees, reputation and future sustainability.
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.
When horrific events like workplace violence occur and the endless blitz of media begins, we consistently hear phrases like: I would have never thought he would do that, or I had no idea she was under so much stress. The reality is, more often than not, there are always signs. We tend to ignore a lot of these and live in our own worlds not wanting to get involved or cause waves.
The following list of items can be used as part of your workplace violence prevention program:
- Complete an initial vulnerability assessment which includes: physical building, security technology, how employees and visitors access the facility, review all theft reports for patterns, termination policy and how key departments are notified of displaced employees
- Complete a review of all security and HR policies and procedures.
- Ensure the company completes background checks and reference checks on all employees and new hirers. Also review your hiring practices as it relates to contract and TEMP workers. Performance management policies are also great once they are hired.
- Create a “Threat Management Team” and assign responsibilities to all members with Senior Management leading the way.
- Deploy Preventative Controls: EAP programs, Stress Management Programs, and Outplacement Support Programs.
- Validate the reporting policy and ensure it is shared with all and ENCOURAGED. In addition, be sure to review all policies, training programs semi-annually for content and effectiveness.
- Communications policy should be tested and include regular security briefings or newsletters to employees with pertinent information and reminders.
- Most say it's not a matter of "if" an event will occur at work, but "when". Create a culture of respect and cooperation, with open communication.
The above steps are not meant as an all inclusive list, but a guide to establish a baseline program which can be expanded based on your companies culture and needs
As a young Security Professional starting my career, the last thing on my mind was could I, or would I, be killed at work? Least of all, I never dreamed of the fact that it could be at the hands of a co-worker or disgruntled employee.
I recommend that you read the article and also reflect upon the topic for a moment. This is not intended to begin panic, but encourage awareness. Watch for signs and pay attention to the small details we often overlook.