We’ve all seen the headlines about instances of workplace violence perpetrated by a disgruntled current or former employee.
Speaking at a recent NationaLease meeting, Sona Ramirez, a board-certified employment lawyer at Clark Hill Strasburger, provided some detail on the size and scope of the issue:
- The World Health Organization said that approximately six million workers worldwide were subject to physical violence while at work.
- In the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are approximately 500,000 incidents of workplace violence each year.
- Over the past 14 years, on average more than 425 workers a year are killed in the U.S.
- There were 500 workplace homicides in 2016 and shootings accounted for 79% of those homicides.
Faced with those statistics and information on incidents in Florida, Maryland, Texas, Kansas and Virginia to name a few, business owners and managers should start paying attention to some of the behavioral characteristics associated with perpetrators of workplace violence.
- On the job problems including inability to accept criticism and blaming others for their poor performance
- Unexplained increase in absenteeism
- Increased severe mood swings
- Frequently loses temper and holds grudges
- Talks about problems at home more frequently
- Increase in unsolicited comments about violence, firearms and other weapons
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Exhibits signs of depression or withdrawal
Often times there is a precipitating event such as a traumatic event in their personal life, extreme stress, career dilemma or loss of job that triggers the act of violence.
You need to have a crisis management plan in place to try to help prevent instances of workplace violence. This should include background checks, anti-harassment, anti-bullying and anti-retaliation policies in addition to a procedure for filing complaints.
Ramirez told meeting attendees to be proactive in their attempt to curtail workplace violence.
- Develop a plan in advance to respond to an observed or reported event.
- Pay attention to threatening or inappropriate behavior.
- Increase physical security.
- Limit access to workplace. For example, require the use of key cards for admittance.
- Prohibit employees from bringing weapons to work.
It’s also important to train supervisors and workers to be alert for the warning signs, and to report incidents of threats or unusual behavior. A tip line is one way to do this.
You also should train your employees about the way to respond to an active shooter. Ramirez suggests treating active shooting training the way you would fire or flood training. Training videos by subject matter experts are a good way to impart information and remember to keep training brief, non-alarmist and with the clear message that the goal is to keep employees safe.
The Department of Homeland Security offers active shooter advice that includes run, hide, fight and calling 911 when it is safe to do so. You can engage the services of a security consultant who can provide site-specific training. They typically offer in person training and role-playing drills on how to respond to an active shooter. Online training is also available.