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Walls: Taking Aim at Workplace Violence

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Workplace violence can happen any time and anywhere. A session at the recent RIMS 2019 Annual Conference & Exhibition reviewed a spectrum of workplace violence risk management tactics, including red flags that can foreshadow an event, and training on what to do if it does occur.

Mark Walls

Mark Walls

Speakers included Dr. Teresa Bartlett, senior vice president of medical quality, Sedgwick; David Rydeen, senior director of risk management, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers; and Officer Chris Perez, Brockton (Massachusetts) Police Department.

Workplace violence can stem from a variety of issues. Domestic disputes, mental health issues, drug abuse, disgruntled employees and racism are all drivers. OSHA reports that 2 million incidents occur each year, many of which (nonfatal incidents like bullying or harassment) go unreported.

Robbery-related homicides and assaults are the leading cause of losses in retail. In this setting, there are tactics to help. For instance, post clear signs that there is limited cash on hand/surveillance cameras in use; maintain an unobstructed view of and from the cash register and sales area; and create and train on a clear policy as to what to do in case of an event.

Approximately 70% of attacks occur within the health care industry. Train your staff so they know what to do. Frequently involve police and first responders in that training. It is important to have protocols in place when events escalate, and train on de-escalation skills.

Whatever the industry, it is important to know the warning signs. A mishandled termination or other disciplinary actions are often triggers. Know that you are not required to call someone in to work to terminate the person. Also be aware of weapons on the work site. Listen for motivations. If someone is suicidal, the person probably will not have problems hurting others. Drug or alcohol use on the job is also a red flag.

Try to be aware of employees’ personal circumstances. Your management really is the front-line defense and must be consistent and present. Family conflicts, financial or legal problems and emotional disturbance can all indicate problems. Gently address any noticed changes in a non-threatening way. Start with, “Your energy is different today. Is everything OK?”

Other behaviors to look for are increasing belligerence; ominous, specific threats; hypersensitivity to criticism; recent acquisition or fascination with weapons; apparent obsession with a supervisor, coworker or employee grievance; preoccupation with violent themes or interest in recently publicized violent events; and outbursts of anger.

Know your resources. Meet with local city and country law enforcement in preparation of an emergency. Invite them to your building for a tour. Provide architectural diagrams of the site, and make them aware of emergency routes and all entrances/exits. 

Risk managers must focus on designing a customized approach that matches the goals of their organization. Use clinical resources such as mental health professionals and nurses and look to umbrella policies for planning assistance. Plan for post-event strategies, including crisis management companies, to meet with witnesses, and a plan for human resources professionals to go to the homes of those affected and cannot return to work immediately.

Dealing with the aftermath is extremely important, especially for survivors. A variety of post-traumatic stress disorder-related conditions can lead to a variety of mental health implications for employees. Access to psychological help will be essential.

There are also return-to-work strategies that will need to be applied, including gradual exposure therapy or possibly assigning an employee to a job in a different department. All of these strategies are geared at proving that it is safe to return.

Mark Walls is the vice president of communications and strategic analysis at Safety National. This blog post is reprinted by permission from InsuranceThoughtLeadership.com.

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