Workplace Violence Prevention for Customer Service

August 23rd, 2013 Comments off

Do your customer service employees occasionally have to deal with angry customers in person? If the answer is yes, then the customer service employee could become a victim of aggression or violence. Workplace violence is often given a limited scope definition in most company policies. However, any physical altercation, intimidation, or even a threat of an altercation should be considered workplace violence. The employer has a responsibility to prepare these employees. They should have the benefit of workplace violence prevention training and good security measures.

The concept of “reasonable foreseeability” will be considered when determining liability for the consequences of an act of aggression or violent incident. What conditions leading to an act of aggression or violence could have been deemed reasonable to expect by a reasonable person? Now think again about the customer service personnel that occasionally deal with angry people. Might it be reasonable to foresee the possibility, that they could encounter an abusive, irate customer who could turn violent? A judge might one day ask whether the victimized employee had been given training on methods for defusing angry, potentially violent customers. Were they aware of emergency procedures for discretely summoning help in the face of such an altercation? Workplace violence policies should not only pertain to employee relations amongst each other, but they should also include relations between employees and visitors and/or customers.

Your business should consider training in nonviolent confrontation management for these customer service personnel. This training can give them the following tools:

  • Verbal and nonverbal de-escalation tools that might prevent a tense situation from getting out of hand
  • Positioning tactics that will help keep the employee safe, confident, and more able to regain control of the situation
  • Discrete duress signals to other employees for immediate assistance
  • Methods for redirecting the customer to feel they are being heard and action is being taken

Physical security measures should be implemented such as:

  • Measures for emergency notification and discretely summoning help
  • Designing customer service areas that afford a certain level of physical security
  • Removing items that could be used as weapons from customer service areas
  • Having areas designated which will remove the aggressor from any ‘audience’

Don’t wait for an incident to happen before you do the right thing for your team. It’s not just about liability. It is about caring enough for your employees who might be subject to this and doing what you can to protect them.

Please check out the workplace violence series courses at www.imac-training.com, specifically, “Non-Violent Confrontation Management” and “Crisis Negotiation – Dealing with Difficult People in Difficult Situations.”

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BURGLAR OUTSMARTED BY SMARTWATER CSI

July 22nd, 2013 Comments off

Fort Lauderdale Police

 

 

 

 

 

 

CITY OF FORT LAUDERDALE
POLICE DEPARTMENT
PRESS RELEASE

July 7, 2013

BURGLAR OUTSMARTED BY SMARTWATER CSI

The Fort Lauderdale Police Department noticed a recent increase in vehicle burglaries at the Beach Place parking garage. The parking garage is located at 17 South State Road A1A in the City of Fort Lauderdale.

In response to this increase, members from the Criminal Investigations Division and the Special Investigations Division Technical Services Unit strategically equipped a decoy vehicle with video surveillance, an alarm, and SmartWater CSI.

Read more…

Watch the Video

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Reducing Your Workplace Violence Liability

July 22nd, 2013 Comments off

Having a robust and effective Workplace Violence Prevention Program is now a necessity in terms of reducing your organization’s liability for such events. Denial that anything horrific will ever happen in your workplace is no longer acceptable. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliance and civil liability will often revolve around the legal opinion of whether an act of violence could have been foreseen, and mitigation or prevention steps taken. If the act occurred in your workplace, or in an environment related to your business dealings, your organization would have to answer the often-unclear question of what was “reasonably foreseeable”. There are many different types of incidents that are considered workplace violence and subject to such scrutiny such as:

  • Criminal activity of a violent nature that takes place in your workplace
  • Violence by a customer/client/patient with some relationship to the workplace (even if it occurs in the ‘field’ while on organizational business)
  • Co-worker aggression or bullying
  • Former employee returning to commit ‘revenge violence’
  • Personal relationship violence (domestic violence) unfolding in the workplace

Granted, the final act of violence might happen suddenly but the precursory warning signs that often develop over time, before the culminating incident, need to be addressed. Proper follow up on those warning signs might even prevent the violence from occurring. So, what will be necessary in order to develop a defensible position that your organization had done everything reasonable to anticipate and prevent a violent incident?  Depending on which type of incident occurs, you will need much of the following to build your defense:

  • Crime statistics (trends and recent occurrences) in the geographic location of the workplace
  • Physical security audit at the property
  • Research on crimes and violence typically related to your industry – perhaps from professional associations or peer groups – emphasis on causes that might also apply to your organization within that same industry
  • Records regarding specific acts of inappropriate aggression or violence at your workplace or at other company facilities in the past
  • Records of employee complaints and incidents of “bullying” in the workplace
  • Evidence of a written workplace violence prevention policy
  • Evidence of employee and supervisory training relative to aggressive behavior recognition and reporting responsibilities dictated by the workplace violence prevention policy
  • Development of a case management team for assessment purposes when investigation of an individual or incident is called for
  • Records regarding reports of domestic violence affecting someone in your workforce – especially if it has become noticed at work (you cannot consider this just a personal matter)
  • Evidence of safe termination protocols for individuals where violence or aggression has been an issue or for someone who might be considered high risk for vengeful reaction

This is certainly not a complete list but it is enough to give your organization a good baseline for being prepared. The biggest challenge that any employer has to face is the denial that one of these incidents could happen to them. Having a solid Workplace Violence Prevention Plan is good practice not only legally, but it is the right thing to do for the safety of your employees and visitors.

Check out AFIMAC’s recent course release on “Active Shooter Response” in the online training series on workplace violence at www.imac-training.com

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Workplace Violence Policy – What Behavior Should it Include?

June 26th, 2013 Comments off

Workplace courtesy and safety should be a simple issue of applying those universal rules of behavior we all have learned by the time we were 5 years old. It has however become a complicated issue, with social and legal consequences for both the perpetrators and the companies/organizations that fail to control them. Is bullying a behavior that should be defined within the policy and included as unacceptable behavior? Is a domestic abuse problem any of the company’s business? Where does ‘aggressive management’ cross the line into the early stages of potential workplace violence or an environment of harassment in which people might over-react?

Yes, these conditions do have to be very clearly spelled out in a workplace violence prevention program and in any written policy statements. If your policy is limited to actual physical violence or threats of violence it will fall short of recent standards. Such standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA – see directive CPL 02-01-052 dated 9/8/11) and ASIS/SHRM’s Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention – American National Standard document define workplace violence with fairly broad language. In order for your policy to provide some hope of prevention, as well as a reasonable defense in court, the following types of activity and conduct must be addressed:

  • Criminal activity within the workplace
  • Customer/client/patient confrontations
  • Personal partner abuse/domestic violence spilling into the workplace
  • Aggressive co-worker issues such as abusive emails, verbal threats, hostile intimidation, and any other unacceptable behavior that invokes fear in the workplace
  • Bullying and cyber-bullying

Much of this conduct is subject to assessment of ‘degree’, especially bullying, but your policy should give clear examples of unacceptable conduct. Absent written directives forbidding such behavior, it often isn’t recognized and therefore goes unreported. This will not only assure its continuation, but will probably be interpreted as acceptance and lead to more drastic, or aggressive, conduct. If it seems like there might be some spill-over into other policies governing employee conduct, like into your Harassment Prevention Policy, so be it. You still want to address the unacceptable behavior, see that it is reported, and take action to stop it. If abusive or aggressive conduct is addressed by more than one policy, that’s fine.

To be effective, the Workplace Violence Policy has to be understood by the workforce and the only method for achieving that is through training. This training has to be done at the employee level for all. Employees actually have to be considered your first line of reporting responsibility. They should learn the behavioral red flags and the reporting requirements expected. Training also has to be done for the supervisors who are going to be your second line of responsibility to investigate the issues. Then the designated Threat Assessment Team should be given even more specific training as to how the policy is to be applied and enforced. High risk terminations, for example, should always include an assessment by the Threat Assessment Team and the following of established protocols for the termination.

Check out our whole Workplace Violence Prevention series of training courses at www.imac-training.com.

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Keeping High Risk Terminations from Becoming Active Shooter Disasters

May 28th, 2013 Comments off

Keeping High Risk Terminations from Becoming Active Shooter Disasters

 

Too many managers think that terminating an employee who has unacceptable aggression issues or has committed some act or threat of workplace violence will be the end of the problem. If handled poorly, it may just be the beginning of a more serious one. If termination is unavoidable, the goal is to make the unpleasant experience more tolerable for the individual through fairness, clarity, understanding, and discretion. The goal is to conduct the action in a manner that takes away their desire to either respond violently during the termination, or return later as an active shooter. Seeking the help of threat assessment and security professionals to assist with the termination planning can reduce the likelihood that this violent follow up could occur.  They can help you with the appropriate precautions before the termination, during the termination, and afterwards.

 

The process begins with recognizing the types of individuals that could be considered high risk terminations. The circumstances of the termination affect how this is evaluated. If the termination is being necessitated by unacceptably aggressive behavior in the first place, then that is an obvious high risk individual. Early recognition of aggressive or violence prone tendencies is essential and may even give the company a chance to work with the individual to improve the behavior before the termination becomes the only option. This early recognition is the responsibility of the entire workforce. Employees must first take note of the conduct and then follow through to report it. This might not happen if the employees are not all trained in what type of behavior is inappropriate and that they have a responsibility to report it.

 

All employees, supervisors, and threat assessment team members must be trained to recognize their roles in the organization’s workplace violence avoidance program. Employees and supervisors must be trained to recognize and report problem behavior. The assessment team must then begin the process of analyzing all of the accumulated data to reveal the severity of the problem. Denying the significance of certain conduct in order to “avoid confrontation” or failing to “connect the dots” are phrases often heard after a violent incident to describe what went wrong.

 

But what if the termination is for another business reason and the indicators that this person might respond in an emotionally driven, violent manner are harder to spot. What if it is a downsizing move or elimination of a position not due to poor conduct or performance? Can this be high risk? Now we have to look deeper into the circumstances and emotional state of the individual in question. They may not be demonstrating obvious precursor signs of violent behavior, but they might have some other contributing factors at play. You need to be aware of these or they might surprise you with a sudden ‘unforeseen’ type of action at the termination interview, or following it. These people might fit one of the categories below:

 

  • The disgruntled employee – not violent yet but always has a chip on their shoulder about the company
  • The overly attached employee – their whole life is their work and they do not have much of a support structure
  • The ‘end of their rope’ employee – they have had so much other life stress that losing a job may be the last straw

 

Of course not all of these people will respond violently to being terminated, but they might, and for that possibility you must take some precautions to accomplish the goal mentioned earlier. Take away their desire to act violently or return for revenge.

 

For more on high risk terminations and other workplace violence prevention training check out www.imac-training.com.

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Workplace Violence – Is Denial Still a Problem?

April 23rd, 2013 Comments off

With the horrific events of violence that have unfolded over the last six months or so like Sandy Hook Elementary School, the movie theater in Aurora, CO, and most recently in Boston at the marathon, do you really still think violence couldn’t happen in your workplace?  Violence is a critical issue for employers to deal with and one of the biggest mistakes that many organizations make is to remain in denial. Yes – it is an unpleasant topic to talk about, let alone make policy on, but you are taking a huge financial risk by not recognizing that it could happen in your workplace and developing prevention strategies to reduce those chances. Your only defense against being found negligent and liable in court if something does happen is to have done the necessary risk assessment to overcome a reasonable foreseeability argument. You will also need to document that you have a workplace violence prevention program in place. Furthermore, when you profess to employees that they are your most valued asset, as so many companies like to do, what message you are sending to them when you do not address violence prevention?

Maybe your organization doesn’t need to have a Workplace Violence Prevention Program. Let’s see – if you have never had crime in your neighborhood, a domestic violence situation with one of your employees, fired anyone, a crime happen in your business, one of your employees stalked, an irate customer threaten one of your employees, a bully in your ranks or never had an employee use aggressive, intimidating language or action against another then maybe your organization is immune. I don’t think that place exists! Yes, all of those things listed can lead to workplace violence and will be looked at in court as contributing to reasonable foreseeability.

How often, after a tragic violent incident do people who are interviewed say something like “I knew he would do something like this” or “he always made me afraid.” Often those who are in the best position to recognize problem behavior from an individual are the employees who engage with them every day. They know something is wrong but may keep quiet about their concerns. They expect that someone should be doing something about the issue but don’t know what to report, or are afraid to. This is not the employee’s fault. If they haven’t been made aware that they have a responsibility to report certain things addressed by the workplace violence prevention program, then they cannot help reduce the problem.

Let’s just take the example of not reporting inappropriate aggression. This can stem from a number of reasons including but not limited to:

  • Fear of repercussions from the individual in question
  • Not knowing when a behavior is deemed unacceptable and must be reported
  • Not knowing to whom or how to report the behavior
  • No assurance that there will be follow up by a supervisor or management

All of these reasons can be addressed with an effective workplace violence prevention policy that is enforced and is an employment compliance requirement. Workplace violence prevention policies must address inappropriate intimidation through language, gestures, direct and indirect threats, or any other aggressive conduct that instills fear into employees. This fear can be coming from an internal or external source. Not only should all employees be trained in what to look for but they should be required to report the problem to supervisory personnel. Supervisory personnel also have to be trained in how to investigate such reports and follow up with those designated within the organization to handle such matters.

Corporate denial is even more evident if ongoing conduct is reported, or a mildly violent incident occurs, and no action to investigate or correct the behavior is taken. This will assure that the aggressive conduct will continue. Others may even mimic the aggression since it seems to be tolerated by the company. Soon the behavior can take on a more violent form when people begin to fight back. Eventually the workplace becomes a hostile environment. No matter who the aggressor is, the behavior must be addressed and stopped. Don’t just transfer the person out to another department hoping they will change their behavior.  Don’t promote them out, and don’t make excuses. Correct the behavior or remove the individual using safe termination protocols.

Consider the possibility of an active shooter. If someone does go on a shooting rampage in your facility, have you trained your personnel what to do? It is fairly simple training but does require a response plan that will work for your facility. This is just one component of your workplace violence prevention and response program.  Just planning to call 911 is not enough.

For more information regarding workplace violence prevention, safe terminations, bullying prevention, active shooter response planning and training, supervisory training and other related topics check out the Workplace Violence Series on our website at www.imac-training.com.

 

 

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Employees With Guns in Active Shooter Incidents

March 22nd, 2013 1 comment

There has been quite a debate going since the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.  Employees want to take their protection into their own hands. Certain states have laws which allow employees to have their firearms with them if they have completed the necessary background checks and training, and have the required permits. On the other hand, companies and other organizations would prefer to have workplace violence policies which prohibit their employees from bringing guns on property, even locked in their car in the parking lot. So where should prudent workplace violence policy draw the line?

When is the employee in a realistic position to safely and effectively employ a weapon in an actual active shooter situation? What are the realities about firing a personal weapon accurately in a tense ‘combat’ situation and can the average citizen engage an adversary under those conditions without hurting any innocent bystanders or co-workers? Not easy questions to answer.

Let’s think about some realities and you can shape your own answers.

  • Companies and organizations need to develop proactive weapon restrictions as part of their workplace violence prevention policy. That policy has to take into account the local and state laws relative to each of their facilities when developing it. An active shooter response plan should be part of this workplace violence policy and the first thing it should dictate as an effective reaction is to get out of the building during such an incident. The second response option is to hide quietly in a safe, locked and barricaded place. Only as a last resort should you engage the shooter in a fight for your life. Yes – at that point having your weapon would be useful, but would everyone have that discipline to stick to the policy and try to get out first and not play hero.
  • Do all private citizens/employees engage in combat shooting training to prepare themselves for the adrenalin, fear, tunnel vision, panic and confusion which will probably be present in an active shooter rampage? This type of shooting is even a challenge for law enforcement professionals who do such training.
  • What liabilities exist for the company, and the defending employee, if they engage a personal weapon defensively but miss and hit an innocent person nearby?
  • What if another type of workplace violence incident is perpetrated because of the known presence of that weapon in the workplace? Others will know about its presence?  If the weapon is going to be defensively used in an active shooter incident, it will have to be in a position to be reached quickly and not in a locked car in the parking lot. Thus the weapon actually being in the building is the only way it can be employed practically. This however, represents a more significant risk than if the weapon remains locked in a car in the parking lot.
  • Personally, if I was the employee who could not get out and had to hide out, I would like to have my 9mm with me, rather than makeshift weapons, if I did have to fight for my life. However, I also feel confident in my training and level of shooting experience with my law enforcement and protective operations background. The weapon also wouldn’t do me much good if it wasn’t in my desk or close-by.

I know I have not presented many answers here but I think it is helpful to consider these practical concerns when formulating your active shooter response plan as part of your larger workplace violence prevention policy.

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Workplace Violence Prevention Training – Not Just For Managers

February 21st, 2013 Comments off

Companies are quickly coming to the realization that a workplace violence prevention policy is a necessity today in both large and small businesses. Liability does not just apply to big companies. And it is not good enough to just have a workplace violence prevention plan or a crisis management team that is aware of the plan and some of the managers and supervisors understand it. Every employee should be trained in the fundamental concepts of the plan and aggressive behavior recognition. They must also understand that in order for the workplace violence prevention plan to actually work, they all are required to know the warning signs of what might be violence precursors and that they have the responsibility to report the conduct or observation.

Workplace violence includes:

  • Violent crimes which occur in the workplace
  • Violence from a client or customer directed at an employee in the workplace
  • Aggressive behavior or bullying from one employee to another
  • Violence from former employees returning to the workplace or acting out after termination
  • Domestic relationship based violence happening at the workplace

Regardless of the nature of the incident, you are trying to prevent the conditions which typically lead to these occurrences from going unchecked. Those circumstances are most often seen by the employees and not always seen by supervisors or managers. All employees have to be taught how to recognize the ‘aggressive behavior’ early warning signs of workplace violence and to whom they should report those observations and concerns. The people who know what is going on daily are the ones who will most likely be negatively affected by it. They are the ones in the best position to avert this behavior in its early stages. Reporting the conduct so that proper measures can be taken to modify the behavior is the only chance of preventing a violent incident. They know who is having domestic partner problems. They know who is being bullied at work. They know the habitually difficult customers. They usually know where the most exposure to crime is within the workplace. Tap that resource. Let them know that they have a discrete reporting responsibility. Then supervisors and managers must follow through and investigate for further action. Just as with any other security condition, the employees are the eyes and ears to what is really going on.

For more about Workplace Violence Prevention strategies and help with educating managers, supervisors, and employees, check out the educational programs here.

 

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Active Shooter Incidents –Society’s Challenge

January 22nd, 2013 Comments off

With the most recent tragedy in Newtown, CT, there has been much needed public outcry about what can be done to stop such senseless violence. As with other forms of workplace violence or criminal violence, there is no magic solution. That is why I’ve called this society’s challenge. What causes a person to become an active shooter and indiscriminately take the lives of intended and/or random innocent targets? Is the fix more gun control? Is it better cooperation between the mental health community and law enforcement? Is it more censoring and regulation of the video game industry? Is it improving economic conditions for workers? Is home/family values realignment necessary?

I believe the premise for reducing these occurrences involves necessary progress in all of these areas.

  • The gun control debate has to find an actionable middle ground. Gun enthusiast organizations would have everyone free to possess high capacity automatic assault weapons standing on the second amendment right to bear arms. Meanwhile, liberal, anti-gun proponents would take guns of any type away from everyone. Does the average civilian need a fully or semi-automatic high capacity weapon(s) for self-defense? No, but citizens should be able to purchase and license a handgun or shotgun for personal or home defense with adequate and required annual training and shooting practice. Politically, we have to find a way to a workable happy medium on this issue.
  • Does the mental health care profession owe it to their communities to work with law enforcement when a patient’s behavior displays an apparent propensity towards violence? Yes, and they should be legally allowed to get the police involved in whatever capacity will have some dissuasive effect on the person. At least the police could begin a case file and start having a conversation with the individual.
  • Does the video game industry need to take a careful look at themselves and perhaps be regulated more strictly regarding the production and release of video games in which killing and extreme violence is rewarded? Yes. I know it is a game but it contributes to the devaluing of life, the de-sensitization of violence and death, and the blurring of the lines between lawful social conduct and fantasy.
  • The economy has forced employers to reduce staff. How do we give people hope for re-employment and relief from the overwhelming feelings of desperation related to loss of their income? Our leaders must put politics aside and develop programs that create jobs to give people a chance to get back on their feet. I’m not just talking about public leaders. I also mean corporate leaders who make financial decisions that negatively affect lives in the name of shareholder (investor) value. Do they need a better ROI to feed their families? No. It would be helpful to find a cure for the disease of greed!
  • And finally, home and family values. The old fashioned way of learning right from wrong. Do we really remember what they even are? Technology is wonderful and powerful. Until children totally lose the social skills to talk to each other in order to work out problems. Misguided children become adults with adult problems. Lacking coping skills anchored in values, they look for someone to “text an answer to them.” Or, they escape to act out fantasy solutions – like in the games they played.

This is not a joke and I don’t mean to make it sound as such. These are horrible things that we do to each other. We can do better than this but we must do it by one small conversation; one small compromise; one small act of tolerance, or kindness, or generosity or understanding at a time. Now multiply that by everyone and we may have something far more wonderful and powerful than technology ever will be.

Now that I’m off of my soapbox you might want to check out the new active shooter video that AFIMAC will be releasing in late February at www.imac-training.com. It offers some real world active shooter survival tips for individuals and solid workplace violence incident planning advice for organizations.

 

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Active Shooter Response Planning

January 2nd, 2013 Comments off

With the recent active shooter tragedies in Aurora, Portland and now Newtown, it becomes increasingly evident that organizations/businesses/schools need an active shooter response plan. Furthermore, this is not a one size fits all challenge. Granted, the plan from one organization or institution to another may have some common reaction guidelines but the specific response protocols for each may be quite different.

In a prior blog I wrote that there are typically three response choices for facility occupants to rely upon:

get out – exit immediately if possible

hide out – lock and barricade in place if escape is not possible

take out – mass attack the shooter if you’re cornered and fight for your life

However, to be practical and effective tailored shooter response protocols have to take into account several factors such as:

  • The type of facility in question – school, mall, business, sports complex, etc.
  • The environment in which the facility is located – city, suburban, rural, remote, etc.
  • The type of communication system available
  • The occupants’ capabilities – age/physical abilities
  • Emergency responder availability/response time
  • Public occupants vs. employees only

These are just to name a few.

The variations of how “get out / hide out / take out” is applied and which of these response options are selected under what conditions will be influenced by these and other factors. Having a generic plan which defines these three basic options is only the beginning. Accounting for these factors and giving example circumstances to prepare each occupant to know specifically what they should be doing is the key to developing an effective active shooter response plan. Then the plan must be tested and rehearsed. Include the local emergency responders in the refinement of your plan. Lessons learned from other incidents that have occurred, and from your own rehearsals, can be used to further modify and tailor your active shooter response plan; the one that might become part of your legal defense and your clear conscience. Facility management has a legal and moral responsibility to have an active shooter response plan that is practical and will give people a chance to survive. It’s the right thing to do.

For more detailed training regarding active shooter response guidelines see our course to be released in January 2013 at www.imac-training.com.

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