Thursday, January 29, 2015

Workplace Violence: America's Public Safety Crisis

Workplace violence has reached staggering proportions throughout America and every community is a potential victim.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines workplace violence as “violence or the threat of violence against workers…that can occur at or outside the workplace and range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide…”

OSHA states that 2 million workers are victims of workplace violence each year. These include homicides, aggravated assaults, robberies, rapes and sexual assaults.

The health, safety and welfare of American workers deserves intensified security training, violence prevention and crisis management measures.

Recent Incidents
Although the crisis has taken place for many years, these are some recent tragedies:
• Jan. 26-a man opens fire at a swearing-in ceremony for new police officers during a city council meeting in New Hope, MN. Two officers are shot before police returned fire and killed the shooter. Although the officers are expected to survive, a report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund for 2014 states firearms-related incidents as the leading cause of death among law enforcement. This accounted for 50 deaths, increasing 56 percent from 2013
• Jan. 25-a disgruntled Home Depot employee fatally shots his supervisor before committing suicide at a crowded New York City store
• Jan. 20-Dr. Michael J. Davidson, 44, the director of endovascular cardiac surgery, was shot inside Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The married father of three children, dedicated to saving lives as a surgeon, died the following day in surgery

Infamous Tragedies
2014-a shocking beheading of a woman at an Oklahoma food distribution center and stabbing of another by a terminated employee. The suspect was killed by an off-duty deputy working on site.
2013-a lone gunman fatally shoots twelve people and injures three others at the Washington Navy Yard.
2009-an army psychologist kills thirteen and wounds twenty-nine at Fort Hood Military Base.
2006-a former postal worker kills her neighbor before going to the Goleta, CA post officer to kill six before committing suicide.
1999-over three days, a securities trader kills twelve in Atlanta, GA, including his wife and two children.
1989-a former employee returns to his Kentucky workplace killing nine and wounding twelve before committing suicide
1988-a toxic romantic infatuation escalates to the killing of 7 workers in Sunnydale, CA
1986-a postal employee shoots twenty, killing fourteen, in Edmond, Oklahoma, coining the term “going postal.”

Preventing Workplace Violence
In my workplace violence presentations and publications over the last 20 years, I have stressed:

• Training-continual programs for all employees including warning signs, mental health, de-escalation and conflict resolution techniques, diversity, domestic violence, reporting and intervention, target hardening, personal safety, company policies and law enforcement collaboration. The FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime has an outstanding document titled “Workplace Violence Issues in Response” which must be an integral element of training.
• Threat prevention and Assessment Teams-ongoing training for all members including the coordinator, human resources, employee assistance, consulting psychologist, safety, health and security specialists, administration, facility managers and legal representatives
• Cultivating a Culture of Respect-a respectful culture where employees are recognized, appreciated and affirmed is essential to violence prevention. Even the slightest acts of disrespect must have measured and swift intervention. A workplace that cultivates respect, altruism and community creates an environment that increases morale, safety and security because people are genuinely cared for. Caring employees, not just policies and procedures, are essential for workplace violence prevention.
• Security Vulnerability Assessment-conducted periodically by a board certified professional covering physical (including notification systems), personnel, informational, procedural security and the workplace culture
• Drills-tabletop, partial and full scale exercise’s to simulate workplace violence scenarios

Final Reflection
All workplace violence initiatives demand support and participation at the highest levels of a company and collaboration with law enforcement.

These are turbulent times of violence throughout America but workplace violence is preventable. Each employee and law enforcement official must be dedicated to violence prevention principles and committed to the reawakening of the nation.

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As authored for Vincent’s weekly column titled “Reawakening the Nation” for the Epoch Times, 35 countries, 21 languages and growing.

An expanded version of this column was published in The New Jersey Police Chief Magazine, March, 2015 edtion.

1. FBI SWAT team making an arrest (Courtesy FBI)
2. Active Shooter Drill (Photo by TSgt Richard Kerner, NCNG Public Affairs, 145th Airlift Wing)
3. “Workplace Violence Issues in Response” guide cover, FBI Critical Incident Response Group, National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, FBI Academy, Quantico, Virginia (Courtesy FBI)

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