On October 5, 2011 ASIS International and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) issued a joint “ASIS/SHRM Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention, American National Standard” aimed at helping organizations implement policies and practices to more quickly identify threatening behavior and violence affecting the workplace, and to assist in effective incident case management and resolution. This new standard reportedly reflects a consensus from professionals in the fields of security, human resources (HR), mental health, law enforcement and legal. I find it particularly symbolic that these two International associations, both the largest representing practitioners in their respective security and human resource professions, worked so closely on this standard. For years, I have been emphasizing the importance of security and HR departments within organizations working together to recognize and resolve these types of issues as a coordinated effort along with other disciplines such as legal, health services, law enforcement, and external experts on the subject. This standard is well written and robust while being flexible enough to be applied to just about any workplace or work environment.
The document addresses the scope of the problem by defining what types of conduct it has included in its definition of workplace violence. It outlines training suggested for employees, supervisors and the threat management team and encourages the use of external expertise to help conduct both the training and the case assessment process. It also references the subject of my last blog which was the recent Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) directive CPL 02-01-052 which established for the first time, general policy guidance and procedures for OSHA field offices to apply when conducting inspections in response to workplace violence incidents. The standard outlines problematic behavior patterns and highlights the importance of recognition and reporting of such behavior. From policy development, to implementation of preventive measures, to response options, I found this document to be very useful and one that could be used as a guide for companies just developing WV prevention programs or refining the ones they already have. It is also identified other sources of research information and listings of specific State statutes and executive orders regarding workplace and domestic violence.
For specific workplace violence prevention training and planning options check out the educational programs on our training web-site www.imac-training.com
On September 8, 2011 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued its first written enforcement directive specifically addressing the problem of workplace violence. The directive established general policy guidelines and procedures for field offices to apply when conducting inspections in response to incidents of workplace violence. It identified the most susceptible industries to this kind of hazard, highlighted the steps that should be taken when reviewing incidents and when to initiate an inspection. This gives some documented connection to the general duty clause which is the enforceable regulation section of the OSH Act.
The directive established four categories of workplace violence based upon the aggressor’s relationship to the organization: 1. Criminal intent (violent acts by people who enter the workplace to commit a violent crime) 2. Customer/client/patient who directs acts of violence against employees 3. Co-worker (violence against an employee by a current or former employee, and 4. Personal (violence by a non employee against an employee with whom they have a personal relationship). This is significant in that most people’s perception of what workplace violence could include may not encompass all of these types of incidents. A company, or organization, has to account for the reasonable foreseeability of any of these happening in their workplace because OSHA may regard them as a “recognized hazard.”
The directive also established three different industries which OSHA considers to be at high risk for workplace violence incidents: 1. Health care facilities 2. Social services settings, and 3.Late night retail settings. Then, OSHA further identified numerous risk factors which need to be considered when evaluating the potential for workplace violence:
- Working with unstable or volatile persons in certain healthcare, social service or criminal justice settings
- Working alone or in small numbers
- Working late at night or during early morning hours
- Working in high crime areas
- Guarding valuable property or possessions
- Working in community-based settings, such as community mental health clinics, drug abuse treatment clinics, pharmacies, community –care facilities and long-term care facilities
- Exchanging money in certain financial institutions
- Delivering passengers, goods or services
- Having a mobile workplace such as a taxicab
The other guideline which OSHA established in this directive is the consideration for feasible means available to the employer to abate the hazard. These include the following suggested abatement methods in general:
- Conduct a workplace violence hazard analysis
- Assess any plans for new construction or physical changes to the facility or workplace to eliminate or reduce security hazards
- Provide employees with training on workplace violence
- Implement “Engineering Controls”
- Implement “Administrative Controls”
- Provide management support during emergencies and respond promptly to all complaints
- Develop a written, comprehensive workplace violence prevention program
There are many specific examples given for some of these suggestions as well as additional abatement suggestions for the specific industries listed above as high risk industries.
Though the directive is primarily intended as a tool for the Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHO’s), Area Directors, District Supervisors and other OSHA officials, it also serves to put organizations on notice. Especially those which the directive identifies as high risk, or are subject to high risk factors. They have put some definition into the workplace violence problem from the perspective of enforcing the existing general duty clause which all employers should be aware of. Now the responsibility is clearly on the employer to; do their research; identify potential for problems; explore feasible solutions or prevention measures; and get out of denial.
Employers have always had the potential civil liability hanging over their heads regarding workplace violence incidents. They have always had the social responsibility to reasonably protect their employees. Now they have a Federal compliance standard to address that has some teeth. Enlisting the help of a professional service provider with specialists in this area is going to be critical. IMAC can be your solution. Call me directly at 440.878.5114 if you would like to discuss this issue and your need to prepare your organization and educate your workforce. See www.imac-training.com for the full series of courses on workplace violence prevention.
Absolutely it does! First of all, your workplace violence policy should directly address the requirement to report domestic abuse. It should give clear reasons why and perhaps list examples of cases where domestic violence exploded in the workplace. Did you know that 74% of the reported cases of domestic abuse also reported that some of the abuse actually took place in the victim’s work area? Consider that even if an abused spouse or partner secures a restraining order for the home, or if the victim actually moves; where is the next most predictable place to find that victim?
It used to be that companies did not want to get involved with domestic abuse experienced by one of their employees. There was a ‘check your personal problems at the door’ attitude. That demeanor now is unacceptable and flat out dangerous. The violent spouse or partner in a fit of rage seeking the victim at their workplace does not always confine the violence to just the victim. The company or organization has a morale and legal responsibility to be aware of such abusive activity and foresee that it could enter the workplace and become everyone’s problem. The courts will certainly look at it that way.
Turning a blind eye, if the abuse is unreported, is not a defense. If the victim’s co-workers are aware of the abuse, then the organization needs to be aware of it. Therefore, your policy needs to make all of your employees aware of their responsibility to report such a situation for discrete investigation. Besides doing the right thing to help the victim employee, your knowledge of the abuse and subsequent actions taken to protect that individual, will become part of your defense. Options might include counseling or other Employee Assistance Program (EAP) intervention, relocation within the office to a new work space, changing of schedule to avoid nighttime parking, or even relocation to another facility if that would help. Make some accommodation that will either help with the direct problem or reduce the likelihood that the problem will manifest itself at work in a violent manner. OSHA’s general duty clause maintains the expectation that the workplace be made safe from foreseeable dangers and this is one of them.
Please explore our online training courses available at www.imac-training.com for workplace violence prevention courses as well as other security disciplines.
Is ‘bullying’ considered workplace violence or does there need to be a physical threat involved? Absolutely it is and it does not have to become physical. Most professionals in the discipline of workplace violence prevention and response include activity which can be characterized by intimidating or demeaning behavior which creates a hostile working environment. Any conduct that is severe, offensive or intimidating enough to make someone reasonably fear for their safety, or that of others, creates a hostile environment. As a matter of fact, workplace bullying is one of the four most common patterns of potential future violence. Offenders often have used their bullying tactics for so long that they feel untouchable. Those very tactics have caused supervisors and other managers to avoid dealing with the problem, perhaps even transferring or worse yet, promoting the person out of their department. They then become very prone to push the envelope more.
This is no longer just a concern in schools. Workplace supervisors cannot just keep saying “oh, that’s just the way he is” or “we didn’t want to make her angry.” The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) general duty clause states “Employers can be cited for violating the … clause if there is a recognized hazard of workplace violence in their establishments and they do nothing to prevent or abate it.” There are currently 20 state legislatures that are considering statues to address workplace bullying with the most recent being in Massachusetts. Workplaces need to have a policy addressing workplace violence prevention that includes bullying, educating their staff about it, and have definitive guidance about what to do if it is observed. There are productivity, legal, compliance and security costs, and the cost of affected employee morale.
For more complete information on workplace violence prevention check out IMAC’s training web site www.imac-training.com for the recently released online training series addressing this serious problem.
For more details regarding our workplace violence program, specifically, please see our workplace violence training course page.
For more information on IMAC’s strike security, disaster and emergency response or protective services, please visit www.imacservices.com.
The recent release of IMAC’s Workplace Violence Training Series at www.imac-training.com is a timely response to what has again become the number one concern of today’s corporate security directors. The tragedies of 9/11 distracted attention from this problem and placed focus on how terrorism would affect the American company/organization. Though concerns regarding terrorism should not be ignored, there is a far greater probability in most American workplaces that there will be a workplace violence incident that will directly, or indirectly, impact the business and the employees.
Workplace violence is an often misunderstood phenomenon. There are many different types of crime and violence that get lumped into the workplace violence data. From robberies, to domestic disputes unfolding in the workplace, to vivid images of fired employees returning on shooting rampages, they are all contained in the sea of statistics on this problem. When this topic is discussed, most people only think of the disgruntled former employee returning to commit an act of vengeance. That is in fact, a small percentage of the problem. Workplace violence includes any conduct or behavior that creates a dangerous or threatening situation for the employees. Therefore, all of the reasonably foreseeable sources of potential violence, both internal and external, must be addressed in a prevention and response strategy.
A workplace violence prevention and response program must contain training, prevention and response strategies to address all of the following components:
- A Proactive Violence/Aggression Free Culture
- Effective Pre-Employment Screening
- A Workplace Violence Policy
- Employee Awareness Programs
- Training Programs for Supervisory Personnel
- A Trained Threat Response Team
- Development of a Threat Response Process
- Physical Security Reviews
- Knowledge and Utilization of Critical Assistance Resources
- Attention to (and Preparation for) Significant Events
Your company has a duty to your employees to provide a safe working environment that is free from violence and aggression, or the threat of them. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards for workplace safety demand it; your legal defense and financial health may depend on it; and your employees certainly deserve it.