None of us want to believe an intruder will invade our workplaces and cause murder or mayhem. But workplace violence happens every year… Even at government agencies.
- the cost of workplace violence incidents in the United States today
- OSHA General Duty Clause and how that impacts your preparations
- how the organization’s core mission shapes your preparation
- identification of various risk factors for each organization
- mitigation processes that can make the overall difference toward saving lives
Justice Clearinghouse Editors (JCH): Your webinar discusses workplace violence. How pervasive is workplace violence these days?
Mark Warren: Workplace violence is much more pervasive today that most people imagine. People are surprised to learn, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics and Bureau of Labor Statistics, 800-1000 Americans are murdered in the workplace every year. In fact, between the years 1992-2006, 11,613 Americans were murdered in the workplace, this was only a 14 year period.
For men roadway incidents (19%) are the leading cause of death in the workplace followed by Homicides (8%). Death for women in the workplace is tied between Roadway Incidents and Homicides, 19% each.
OSHA has now recognized Homicide in the workplace as a serious problem and is mandating that all employers provide workplace violence training to ensure a safe working environment for their employees. The OSHA General Duty Clause states that workplaces must be “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” Employers can no longer afford to avoid providing the appropriate training, policies and procedures as it relates to workplace violence, which is now a “recognizable hazard” according to OSHA or they can be fined for negligence.
According to Bureau of Justice Statistics and Bureau of Labor Statistics,
800-1000 Americans are murdered in the workplace every year.
JCH: It seems like workplace violence takes a “back seat” to the high-profile incidents like Columbine, the Aurora Movie Theater Shootings and of course the recent Las Vegas incident. Why do you think workplace violence isn’t given the time and attention it warrants? Is it really just a “numbers issue”?
Mark: This is really an interesting question and I have to say I don’t know that I can say positively but I believe there are several reasons.
First and foremost, when it involves children being killed and injured that will always warrant more attention. Children are our most important and innocent group. We perceive them as more fragile, needing more protection, etc., so when a tragedy like this happens, it grabs all of our attention. If a parent is worried about their child’s safety, it affects all of their thoughts, so even though a parent may be at work their focus will be on their child, meaning we are less productive while at work.
A second reason may be that many of the homicides in the workplace are domestically related. There may be collateral deaths but when the victim is related or involved with the suspect I believe that we somewhat dismiss the incident to a certain degree because it is explained. When we do not have a clear motive for the attacker’s actions it causes more anxiety and concern for people because they feel more vulnerable.
Another reason that there is less national attention given to homicides in the workplace is because some businesses are open cash businesses and the deaths are related to an armed robbery for example and again that doesn’t cause the anxiety or concern because it can be explained. I am not downplaying the tragedy in every loss of life, but as a society when we can see the motive of the suspect, it makes it easier to accept the tragedy.
While the organization directly impacted by workplace violence will have difficulty recovering, nothing will ever be the same again for the people affected, the rest of the community or nation goes back to a sense of normal. However, when the attack targets defenseless children and we are incapable of rationalizing how someone would be willing to harm “innocent” children it leads to more interest or concern.
One of the things we try to do in our training is to change the discussion about workplace violence and the long-lasting impact an incident will have on an organization. Each organization is a small community, employees will spend more waking hours with coworkers more than loved ones.
The question to ask of organizations is: what impact would it have on your organization if you lost only one person to homicide in the workplace? How would you feel about returning to work? How long would it take for the workplace to return to normal if ever?
“The biggest mistake made by organizations
is falling into the trap of believing that an incident will never happen to them.”
JCH: Virtually every place can be considered a workplace, to include police departments, courtrooms, prosecutors’ offices, etc. What special considerations might these justice organizations want to consider when discussing their own mitigation strategies?
Mark: This is a very insightful thought that is not usually considered. Almost all of these incidents occur in a workplace environment of some sort, as an example, a school is a workplace but when we discuss these incidents in a school it is seen as a stand-alone location. It is important to understand risk and how to assign risk to each location to aid in preparation, planning, and deterrents to raise the level of security at each location.
As an example, there are four general types or risks for workplace violence:
- Violence by strangers or criminals – The perpetrator has no legitimate relation to the workplace but instead are on-site to commit a robbery or other criminal act.
- Violence by Customers/Clients – Violence involves assault or threat by someone who is either the recipient or the object of a service provided by the affected workplace or victim within the workplace.
- Violence by Co-Workers – Perpetrator has some employment-related involvement with the workplace or violence may be in retaliation for some perceived unfair treatment; lay-off; loss of promotion, etc.
- Violence by Domestic Relationships gone bad – (estranged partners, spouses or relatives) Perpetrator has a personal relationship with the victim. Or, domestic or personal dispute that spills over into the workplace. Or, the protagonist is a family member or other person who has had a personal relationship with the employee outside of work.
- And I would include a fifth – Terrorism – Is the facility seen as important to the basic infrastructure of the community, state or nation.
As the question relates to justice organizations, the various risk factors listed above can all apply to a police department, courtroom, or prosecutors office due to the nature of the work conducted. As a result, they may not see all of the different ways that risk can enter into their respective workplaces. Each one presents unique challenges to enhance the level of security without overriding the core mission of the entity.
Take a court, for example. If it is a criminal court, they by nature are dealing with potential criminals who could be about to lose their freedom for a period of time. The defendant could have the perception that they are being singled out and picked on and feel justified in carrying out an attack of retribution. It could involve family members, such as a divorce or domestic abuse case which are emotionally charged incidents. Because of these risk factors, courts should provide a higher level of security to not only protect the employees of the court but other visitors to the courts.
“These risk factors… all apply to a police department,
courtroom, or prosecutors office due to the nature of the work conducted.
As a result, they may not see all of the different ways that risk can enter into their respective workplaces.”
JCH: What are the biggest mistakes organizations make in this phase of preparing/planning for intrusion?
Mark: I really believe that the biggest mistake made by organizations is falling into the trap of believing that an incident will never happen to them.
As a result, it is not given the proper thought and preparation and unfortunately, once it happens it is too late. There is no going back, the damage is done and it will be very hard to justify the lack of planning costing much more in the long run as a result of lawsuits, loss of productivity, loss of experienced employees, loss to company brand name, etc., etc.
We understand that the probability of an attack such as this is very low for your organization, so it is not the frequency that you are preparing for but instead, you are preparing for the long-lasting, devastating impact one incident would have on your organization. While it can seem overwhelming trying to figure out the plan, process and proper policy with the appropriate training needed for employees, etc., it does not have to be. It is a matter of recognizing the need and establishing a plan forward. This cannot be a one-time thing, this will have to be an ongoing culture shift. The best security system you could ever invest in is your employees.
“The question to ask of organizations is:
What impact would it have on your organization if you lost only one person to homicide in the workplace?
How would you feel about returning to work?
How long would it take for the workplace to return to normal — if ever?”
Click Here to Watch “Does Preparation Equal Prevention: Why Prepare for an Intruder Response Event?”