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Month: June, 2014

The Employers Obligation & Responsibility for workplace violence

(another excerpt from the book)

                It still amazes me to no end that employers, especially those in the C-suite, are so in denial about workplace violence (WPV). They simply refuse to believe that it can happen to them and their business/location.

                I’m not completely sure of why they continue to deny the possibility. I do realize that most of the C-suite is sequestered away from the real world and don’t pay much attention except to the P & L reports. That is unfortunate. They do have to realize that preparing the company, which means spending money, to plan for WPV will save their financial bottom line in years ahead.

                Another thing that I have said for several years is ‘If you ignore a problem and stick your head in the sand like an ostrich, don’t be surprised if you get bit in the butt!’ And with WPV it is so true. And if you get bit in the butt, it can be in many different ways – remember BP and the oil spill? Do you remember the firestorm that erupted over the CEO’s lack of re/action?

                While I’m not a great proponent of government, they have set forth some very good guidelines and rules for helping employees stay safe at work. These take the approach that the employer is responsible if an employee gets hurt on the job in an incident of WPV.

 

Employer’s Responsibility:

                The employer’s responsibility is spelled out in what is called the ‘General Duty Clause’. It states in no uncertain terms;

 

Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.

                This means that the employer must provide a place for the employee to work that is safe no matter what. If they don’t have a worksite that is safe, then they can be sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or privately by the employee.

                And just because the term is in that statement of recognized hazards, doesn’t mean that WPV can’t be sued over. If an employer denies or refuses to see a problem then that means they are short-sighted not because the hazard isn’t recognized.

 

                Definition of Workplace Violence:

                I have stated for a number of years that many incidents that aren’t considered WPV by most people should be and actually are WPV. What are those, you ask? Simple. And will let another organization spell them out for you – Workplace Violence Research Institute of Palm Springs, Ca.

Any act against an employee that creates a hostile work environment and negatively affects the employee, either physically or psychologically;

Physical assaults

Verbal assaults

Threats

Coercion

Intimidation

All forms of harassment.

 

                These can be taken in many forms. It is up to the employer, and their agents (supervisors, managers, & so on) to ensure that none of these are taking place. If they allow any of these they can be sued. Whether they do unwittingly or not.

 

            Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on workplace/school violence prevention and other security issues. With numerous interviews, blogs, articles, and 2 books he has proven himself in the security arena for more than 31 years, and 22 studying workplace/school violence issues.

            He utilizes his years of field knowledge to give real life examples of incidents pulled from both his own experiences and the news headlines. Contact him through his Facebook page at One is too Many. Here you will see and read about other items related to WPV/SV as well as incidents you may not have heard or thought about.

Psychological Damage of WPV

Psychological Damage of WPV

(Another post on my forthcoming book)

                We talk, and sometimes talk ad nauseum, about the dangers of deadly workplace violence (WPV). We discuss the financial costs of the issue. But seldom are the witnesses of WPV ever mentioned or thought about.

                Being a consultant and writer in the deadly field of WPV prevention, I’m not trying to dismiss the seriousness of deaths in the workplace. Nor am I trying to down-play the cost of such an event that can strain any budget to the breaking point, and sometimes push it over the edge into bankruptcy.

                But we all seem to miss the issues that confront those who actually witness the WPV event, deadly or not. This is an aspect that needs to be looked at and discussed as well.

                A friend of mine has a daughter who was living in Las Vegas a few years ago. This young woman was trying to get her career started and living the good life of a beautiful young woman. That all changed in a heartbeat one morning.

                While on her way to work, she only lived a few blocks and walked nearly every day, she was startled to hear screaming and then a huge thud hitting the sidewalk in front of her and splattering her with bodily fluids and other things. She was on the end result of a man committing suicide.

                He had jumped from a 40 story building in Vegas and splattered himself all over the sidewalk, cars, people, & the building. Why did he do this? I don’t know and neither does Leisel. But it has remained with her for the past 10 years.

                In the interim, she has endured nightmares, drug and alcohol abuse, and several other issues including psychological issues because of witnessing such a traumatic event. And while this was a suicide and not WPV, when it comes to psychological damage to the human psyche, does it really matter?

                The issues and the incident can, and more than likely will, be relived over and over again for years to the person who was involved in it. Much like a soldier returning from Iraq or Afghanistan with PTSD, these individuals can be traumatize just as well by this kind of incident.

                And even witnessing the aftermath of a deadly incident can trigger nightmares i.e. walking past the blood, brain matter, and other bodily fluids that will be scattered about. And even if they don’t see or feel this, the idea that an incident can be accomplished so close to them can cause issues as well.

                The initial cost is over $30,000 per person. The long term effect on the wallet and psyche is incalculable. Think about this. A person has to undergo so many years of therapy because of such an event that it can’t help but be a detriment to their lives, both personal and professional. Keep in mind that not even medical professionals ever get used to seeing or being around death – only the mortician does.

 

            Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on workplace violence prevention and other security issues. With numerous interviews, blogs, articles, and 2 books he has proven himself in the security arena for more than 31 years, and 23 studying workplace violence issues.

            He utilizes his years of field knowledge to give real life examples of incidents pulled from both his own experiences and the news headlines. Contact him through his Facebook page at One is too Many. Here you will see and read about other items related to WPV/SV as well as incidents you may not have heard or thought about.

It’s Not Complicated

I’ve heard throughout the last few years with the increase of workplace violence (WPV) incidents that attempting to combat the issue is far too costly and complicated to even worry about. So if it is, then why worry about a literally 1 in 100,000 chance of it happening?

                There is no simple answer to those managers or c-suite executives who believe that. I can say definitively, however with certainty that it is not complicated!

                Despite what every consultant or professional will tell you it’s not complicated to formulate a WPV program or plan of action.

                It’s not complicated. It is however, time consuming, detail oriented, and needs people from a multitude of business disciplines to implement such a plan, make it flow smoothly, and ensure that people can be saved.

                There is a distinctive difference between being time consuming and detail oriented and complicated. And far too many people get them confused. Let me ask you something for arguments sake.

                Can you create a game plan for an NFL football game? I’d be willing to say that 99% of us will say no. For us it’s complicated. Why? Because it’s not what we do! NFL coaches deal with this for years on end and are used to making game plans, despite the time and detail. But to them it’s not complicated.

                So what is necessary for a comprehensive multi-disciplinary approach to preventing, or lessening the likelihood, of an incident?

  • You have to identify and acknowledge the many facets of the problem
  •  You have to address the warning signs (all 21 of them) with supervisors/hourly employees
  •  You have to ensure that all of your policies & procedures are up-to-date and fair
  •  Security policies & procedures need to be up-to-date
  •  Training everyone in the idea of security AND customer service
  •   Crisis communication is known
  •  Form a Threat Assessment Team
  •  Document practically everything, even if it’s innocuous at the time
  •  Formulate an active shooter plan
  • Design and implement a disaster recovery plan
  • * Train, train, train, train

These are the major areas to be concerned with. There are numerous other areas within these and they will be filled with minutiae and consume a lot of time and possibly financial resources. But before you can just ‘blow it off’ and say it’ll never happen you have to consider these numbers;

  • 10% of employees a year are assaulted, either verbally or physically
  • The #3 cause of death in the workplace is murder
  • WPV costs $120 billion to American business yearly
  • 2% of total non-fatal lost work time injuries are by assault.
  • $4.2 billion in costs to American businesses per year in missed days of work and legal costs
  • $5.6 million settlement for each employee killed
  • $1.2 million, average, inadequate security lawsuits
  • $30,000 for psychological therapy for each employee affected
  • $50,000 to clean up and replace office supplies and furniture
  • 6 – 8 weeks for productivity to get back to 100%

Startling statistics to be sure. And while the potential of a deadly incident in your business is low, WPV affects 100% of all companies in this country – because of the multi-faceted avenues of the problem.

                But again, is it complicated? No. Just time consuming and detail oriented to those who are both in and not in the field.

 

                Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on workplace violence prevention and other security issues. With numerous interviews, blogs, articles, and 2 books he has proven himself in the security arena for more than 31 years, and 23 studying workplace violence issues.

                He utilizes his years of field knowledge to give real life examples of incidents pulled from both his own experiences and the news headlines. Contact him through his Facebook page at One is too Many. Here you will see and read about other items related to WPV as well as incidents you may not have heard or thought about.

Customer Service & Preventing WPV

(Another excerpt from the book)

                You’re asking one question. What does customer service have to do with workplace violence (WPV)? Customer service has many facets to it, much like WPV, and therefore the service you provide, or don’t, can be the spark that ignites an incident.

                Every business has both internal and external customers. And how you treat them can have an impact on if you’ll have an incident within your business. Again there are many kinds of WPV that you simply can’t prevent. And having a customer perpetrate an incident against an employee may or may not be preventable, but why would you want to take the chance?

                Customer service has been a huge bug-a-boo for years for businesses. Mostly it is concentrated on external customers. But you have to give as much attention to the internal customer as well.

                So what do you have to consider and think about in connecting WPV and customer service? Here are just a few tips for you;

Internal Customers

                These are the people that work with you every day. Whether they are inside your business or not. Whether they are your actual employees or not. Whether you are the sole proprietor or have hundreds of employees. If you look at it in a broad perspective then you’ll know who your internal customers are.

                If you are a large company and have many departments, then every single department that you work or deal with is a customer. Take for example in a manufacturing plant you have at least 10 departments working there or maybe in an off-site location. Shipping & receiving, manufacturing (and if you make different products, each product line), quality control, management, support staff (mainly the office), maintenance, sales, security, housekeeping/janitorial, and etc. And these are just a few of what you have.

 

External Customers

                This may be a little easier to think of, but not as easy to distinguish at times. This is mainly because some of your external customers can also be internal customers. People such as delivery or other support personnel. Contracted janitorial or security people. They may be an external provider/customer, but they work at your company on a regular basis becoming an internal customer as well.

                But over and above the 5 sets, there are attitudes that your employees utilize, whether by habit or by training that can also affect customers/co-workers to commit violence. And these are above the attitudes that companies have towards their employees. Not a single one of them is good and unfortunately you run into them far too frequently in the business world today.

  • Do I Look Like I Care?
  • Lint On The Shoulder
  • South Pole
  • Doh!
  • I, Robot
  • By The Book
  • Exercise Time

                        These are by no means the only things that need to be taught, not doing of course, and thought about when it comes to customer service to both internal and external customers. But it is a start. Most training programs in companies don’t go far enough in teaching customer service and then they won’t empower their employees to solve problems – and sometimes it’s justified.

            But you have to keep in mind that if someone is ‘on the edge’ and ready to go postal, then a bad customer service relationship may push them over. And it doesn’t matter if it is co-workers or actual outside customers. They can all react violently if that case.

 

            Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on workplace violence prevention and other security issues. With numerous interviews, blogs, articles, and 2 books he has proven himself in the security arena for more than 31 years, and 23 studying workplace violence issues.

            He utilizes his years of field knowledge to give real life examples of incidents pulled from both his own experiences and the news headlines. Contact him through his Facebook page at One is too Many. Here you will see and read about other items related to WPV/SV as well as incidents you may not have heard or thought about.

Basic threat Assessment checklist

This basic, most basic, checklist for workplace violence potential is not in my book for several reasons that I won’t go into at this point (if I do a 2nd edition then it will). But keep in mind this is only a basic checklist. You have to know your employees and their potential, in addition to this checklist. And a good checklist can be, depending on several things dozens of pages of questions to answer and quantify.

                As for the low to high end potential of these different areas, you have to assess that along with the employee and the environment that you work in and around. I can’t give you all the answers for this issue, only give you some guidelines for you to form your own opinion and protect you, your employees, and business;

  • Of the 21 warning signs how many are actually visible in an employee? With this, you have to be brutally honest, and write down everything in their profile. And with some of the signs you may have to really dig.
  •  How many signs are you writing down? AS many as 4 or 5 warning signs are signs of an issue; however, it may not mean they’re ready to commit violence. The more signs you write down the more likely you’ll have an incident of some kind.
  •  When was your last security survey/risk assessment? If it’s been more than 18 months, it’s been too long. Hire a consultant/security company to complete one immediately, and they must give non self-serving answers and recommendations.
  •  Do you have a Threat Assessment Team in place? If not, it may be time to organize one, even if it only meets infrequently, but it needs to be operating before and incident even is hinted at.
  •  Likewise, do you have a Disaster Recovery Plan in place and ready to go? When was the last time it was tested with either a drill or a full blown exercise? If it’s been more than 12 months, it’s time to dust off the moth balls and conduct one.
  • How many incidents have there been in your community, industry – locally, regionally, and nationally? This is a question for your threat assessment, but you have to know these numbers before you can accurately assess your risk.
  •  Are your human resources and security policies up-to-date? Again, if they are more than 18 months old they need to be looked at. And not only that, it may be necessary to write new policies for items such as domestic violence and other such items. And how much has your location changed in 18 months – remodeling, actual change in location, etc.
  •  What is the type of crime in your area of business? Is it mainly vandalism or robberies? Yes this does have an impact on your business. You have to plan differently for each kind of crime.
  •  Are your employees knowledgeable of your HR and security policies?
  •  Do they trust either HR or security to confront and solve a problem, effectively and not blame or discipline the wrong person?
  •  Can any of your policies be considered disparate? Be brutally honest with this like with the warning signs. Remember, perception is reality when it comes to WPV – for both the company and the employee who may perpetrate an incident.
  •  Do you have security officers or ‘guards’ on property, at all times or at all? What kind of security do you have?
  •  Have the employees been trained on your DRP and WPV?
  •  Have you screened your employees to prevent a potential problem?

As I stated above, this is only a small list. There are easily a couple of hundred questions you should, and need, to ask yourself and staff to help you to avoid an incident. If you read my book, or other books on the subject that cover it, you’ll see that the warning signs can be complex and require you to know your employees.

                You should score the above areas in a simple format; say assigning a number of 1 – 10. The higher the number the higher the risk of the employee becoming volatile and potentially violent. And as I stated above, you need to be brutally honest with this assessment and NOT cut back the number just because they are a friend or someone who is trusted. Even supervisors, managers, and business owners commit these crimes.

                There is never an easy answer to WPV. Nor does an employee ever ‘just snap’ and no one could see it coming. Nor is there any reason for a company to be caught ‘flat-footed’ and not know what to do if an incident does occur and results in a death, serious injury, or maiming.

                With this short checklist I’m hoping that you can help yourself avoid an incident.

 

            Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on workplace violence prevention and other security issues. With numerous interviews, blogs, articles, and 2 books he has proven himself in the security arena for more than 31 years, and 23 studying workplace violence issues.

            He utilizes his years of field knowledge to give real life examples of incidents pulled from both his own experiences and the news headlines. Contact him through his Facebook page at One is too Many. Here you will see and read about other items related to WPV/SV as well as incidents you may not have heard or thought about.

Creating a Threat Assessment Team

(Here is another post on nmy forthcoming book. Thank you for your indulgence here and in the future)

                Just as your company has developed policies, procedures, & other such items to combat other less deadly threats in the business, so you must create and do the same for workplace violence (WPV). That one thing is called a Threat Assessment Team or Group – TAT or TAG. And it can’t be something that meets on a non-frequent basis or one that only meets when there is an issue.

                Your TAG should be meeting, at least initially, several times a week or month. They have to meet that often in the beginning to ensure that everything that needs to be done is started and is getting done.

                Initially, your team has to start with being formed. That responsibility usually falls to one person within the organization in HR or security. But the people on your team must absolutely be ‘team players’. They have to put aside their own departments, squabbles, and issues with others and work together.

                Who should be on this team? It should be a cross section of every single department of your company. Not meaning that you need 50 people, but someone from production, security, shipping, the office, HR, and so on. It doesn’t have to be completely all inclusive, but it does require a good representation of the company. If necessary it may be of good sense to include members of your union and/or hourly employees, as long as they put aside their issues with everything.

                The first task they face is reviewing everything that has been gathered and put together for both the Crisis Management Team (CMT) and the company’s Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP). This should also include the risk assessment and analysis from security and/risk management. The main function here is to question the findings and recommendations until they are satisfied with their results in defining them.

                The second hardest responsibility that the team has is to gather and assess all threats and violence from within the business. Even if there are none to speak of, they still need to meet and discuss other such incidents from the surrounding area and industry. This will allow the team to become pro-active in seeing and confronting any potential problems or trends with the company or industry. A good resource for this is the Workplace violence e-report.

                Discussing other incidents gives you the foresight or hind-sight – to see what other companies did and didn’t do. It allows you to clearly see what works and what doesn’t or may/may not work for you with some tweaking.

                They need to have the authority and the support of senior management in order to pursue and complete their mission. Without this support, they are ‘dead’ in the water’ before they ever get started. Upper management needs to give them support and the authority to act upon something they find amiss.

                Again the TAG needs to read, revise, and re-define every single aspect of your CMT, DRP, and other such factors as necessary to ensure that the business is as safe as it can be. This may also mean stepping on the toes of departmental heads and managers. Not trying to upset anyone, but to make the business safer.

                Simply put nothing should be left off the table when it comes to the TAT review. Every sacred cow needs to be re-visited and possibly put out to pasture if it’s outdated or not plausible anymore. No matter how much it’s liked or utilized!

                From security to shipping to office visitors to delivery people everything has to be analyzed. One question they can ask themselves during the initial phase of the group is simple and at the same time hard to answer. And no matter how trivial it needs to be brought up and discussed.

                How could a non-employee gain access to the business to do harm? Secondly, how could an employee gain access for the same reason? Lastly, they need to think like a person who wants to get in and do harm. Think like a criminal or someone upset enough to come in and create chaos and mayhem.

 

            Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on workplace/school violence prevention and other security issues. With numerous interviews, blogs, articles, and 2 books he has proven himself in the security arena for more than 31 years, and 22 studying workplace/school violence issues.

            He utilizes his years of field knowledge to give real life examples of incidents pulled from both his own experiences and the news headlines. Contact him through his Facebook page at One is too Many. Here you will see and read about other items related to WPV/SV as well as incidents you may not have heard or thought about.

Average Profile of a Perpetrator of WPV

Average Profile of a Perpetrator of WPV

                Starting with this blog, I will be running some blogs that some of you may have already read before. I am posting them on behalf of my new book ‘One is too Many: Recognizing & Preventing Workplace Violence’. It will be available for anyone to purchase at your favorite on-line bookstore within a few weeks. I have taken the time to re-write these a bit, adding more information or deleting some as the case may be.

 

Average Profile of a Perpetrator of WPV

                While these signs below are the most frequent profiles of people who will perpetrate workplace violence (WPV), it is by no means the exclusive and definitive list. Therefore, we must be constantly aware and be willing to ‘see something say something’;

 

Age:

                The age of a perpetrator will usually be between 25 and 45 years of age. But in recent years we’ve seen people as young as 19 and as old as 70 that will commit an incident.

 

Race & Gender:

                The overwhelming majority of incidents are committed by white males. Again, this is the majority. There are numerous incidents where I can point you to a female and a black, Asian, Hispanic, or Arabic descendant who perpetrated the crime.

 

Weapon:

                The majority of people, media and law enforcement alike, believe that most WPV incidents occur with firearms. They do not! Only the incidents that get the headlines are committed with firearms – or are used for other purposes i.e. political means. More incidents are committed with fists, words, & other implements than are with firearms, including hammers, screwdrivers, & even pencils.

 

Family/work Stress:

                Serious stress in someone’s family is also in the profile. Stress, as I’m sure you know, can come from many different sources. From a child’s illness, financial, divorce, and so many other items. If you look at most incidents there is stress of some kind that is among the reasoning’s for them to commit the crime. Then look at the stress placed on individuals in their jobs – wondering if they’ll have a job and etc.)

 

Mental Illness:

                Everyone who perpetrates an incident of WPV has been perceived to have a mental illness. In most instances, they do. But not in all cases. Please remember that depression, or another health concern can be destructive to someone’s mental health and put them into ‘a dark abyss’ of mental illness.

 

Perception of disparate treatment:

                I haven’t read any incident of WPV that hasn’t included this aspect of the profile. Everyone that I have heard about has perceived that they received disparate treatment from co-workers, supervisors, managers, vendors, and etc.

 

Loner:

                Ah, the proverbial ‘lone wolf’. The people who commit these crimes, whether it be at a business, the parking lot, the sidewalk, or in someone’s home will normally be a loner. From sitting by themselves at lunch or on breaks or just never socializing with others at work or when out.

                They may sit by themselves and appear to be happy or satisfied but they aren’t. In some cases they are just painfully, for them, shy. In either event, they shun other people for a number of reasons.

 

Other signs:

                There are numerous other signs that can profile the potential perpetrator of this crime. In these cases, if you look at the warning signs, then you’ll see many other facets of someone who may become violent in the workplace. Here is a partial listing of some of the 21 signs/profiles;

  • drug and alcohol abuse
  • addiction to violent music, video games, & movies
  • attendance issues.
  • Recent unusual or changed behavior

                As with the warning signs, we all have to be able to ‘connect the dots’ and not be afraid to tell or talk to someone about the co-worker. Be they a friend or not, someone has to say something.

 

            Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on workplace/school violence prevention and other security issues. With numerous interviews, blogs, articles, and 2 books he has proven himself in the security arena for more than 31 years, and 22 studying workplace/school violence issues.

            He utilizes his years of field knowledge to give real life examples of incidents pulled from both his own experiences and the news headlines. Contact him through his Facebook page at One is too Many. Here you will see and read about other items related to WPV/SV as well as incidents you may not have heard or thought about.