Can we prevent any of it?

by todaystrainingblog

I am frequently asked that question from both non-security & security people. Can we prevent any incidence of workplace violence (WPV)? The simple answer is yes and no. Quite an oxymoron, idn’t it? Let me elaborate.

The succinct answer is yes, we can prevent some forms of WPV. Those are usually the ones that deal with our own employees. By not doing the things that many companies do to encourage an incident of WPV, it is highly likely that we can.

And attempting to prevent bullying, vandalism, harassment, & assault will also go a long way as well.

But on the other hand we can’t prevent many other kinds of WPV. And these far outnumber the ones we can. Here is a small sampling of what we can’t prevent;

Robberies with assault-roughly 85% of all WPV

Arson after hours

Verbal assaults from employees (most of the time) or customers

Random acts of violence such as a shotgun blast through a drive thru window

Domestic abuse from customers against customers

Child abuse by a customer

(And these last 2 are WPV, although not in the traditional sense. We as security professionals & business owners are liable for not lessening or stopping an incident as soon as we can with both of these)

In this society we live in, free and open, we can’t protect everyone from everything, especially violence. Therefore, we have to be as protective as we can and take the steps to lessen the impact or possibility of violence occurring in our businesses. Which after all is our responsibility under federal guidelines.

From the stereotypical angry employee to the customer who comes in and begins verbally assaulting everyone, we need to have the training, policies, procedures, & people to stop it. And if we can’t stop it, we need to be able to lessen the liability and risk of it actually turning deadly.

As I said above, there is no way we can prevent everything, including violence, in our businesses. We do our best to prevent theft, credit card fraud and breaches, and workers comp fraud. And despite our best efforts we can’t stop these more typical business crimes. So again we need to do what we can to lessen the risk.

But the security officers/managers, who are there to protect us & trained to do these jobs, need to know that you are there to back them up and not down grade or denigrate what they do. If they are in the right, no matter how asinine it may seem, we need to back them up. If they are wrong, then it will be rectified by the C-suite or contractor (at least we hope so anyway, and not with a knee-jerk reaction).

And as far as whether an incident can be prevented, we need to look at other possibilities for responsibility other than just the security officers or managers. From those making the policies/procedures i.e. human resources & the c-suite, to the individual managers in charge of their people ignoring warning signs of someone who may turn out to be violent.

Again, the answer to ‘Can we prevent any of it’ is simple. Yes & no. It just really depends on which facet of WPV we encounter during the time we are working. And when we encounter it, how do we deal with it? Do we just sluff it off and tell ourselves no biggie? Or do we actually do something and be a ‘snitch’ on that employee/supervisor/manager/vendor/delivery person?

These are the type of incidents that the Department of Homeland Security developed the See something, say something’ quote. And as with terrorism, shown in the San Bernardino shootings, it’s not profiling to tell someone that something is afoot or amiss.

So, once again I will ask you, Can we prevent an incident of WPV? And again, trying not to be a broken record but yes & no. There is another quote from a few years ago that is pertinent here. “The terrorists/perpetrators only have to be right once. We on the other hand have to be right 100% of the time”.


Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on security issues, specifically workplace violence. He’s spent 32 years in the security field. Contact him at 480-251-5197 or Visit his Facebook page, One is too Many. Here you will read about other items related to security & WPV issues. Or be a twitter follower at @robertsollars2.

I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear