Workplace violence increasingly catching eye of regulators

Jan. 6, 2017
2016 International Bulk Liquid Symposium

AN estimated 1.7 million workers fall victim to non-fatal violence while at work each year, according to US Department of Justice statistics. These are not workplace injuries on an occupational basis, but violence in the form of simple or aggravated assault (which accounts for 95%), robbery, rape, and sexual assault.

“Increased accounts of violence where we work not only make it into every news cycle, but have led to new government standards,” said Pete Van Beek, a nationally recognized security expert and author of Domestic Terrorism on Our Streets, Tough Mark, and Operation Secure Transport.

“It catches the eyes of regulators and others who need to address the issue. Apparently, it’s getting worse and more frequent. The way regulators look at it: ‘Companies aren’t policing themselves. We’re not getting it taken care of. Maybe it’s just too big of a problem. We’ve got to create new standards.’ Obviously there’s great intent with any new standard that’s created. They’re always meant for preventing something bad from happening in the future. They have good intent.”

In his presentation, “Security Assessments and Enforcement That Impact Transportation,” Van Beek said standards are created by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and ASIS International. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not create them, but it is charged with enforcing them.

“You guys have your hands full just trying to keep up with this on a daily basis,” Van Beek said during the presentation delivered during the Intermodal Tank Container Association’s 2016 Intermodal Bulk Liquid Symposium in Kemah, Texas. “I spent 32 years in transportation, and it was a challenge, especially back in the early days when things started to evolve.”

He cited two standards related to workplace violence:

•  “Workplace Violence Prevention and Response Guideline,” ASIS GDL WVP 09-2005, September 2005. DHS awards ASIS the technology Guidelines Program under the SAFETY Act of 2002.

•  “ASIS/SHRM WVP.1-2011, “Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention,” October 20, 2011. He said it was formulated by ANSI, ASIS International, and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). He said SHRM “got involved because it’s workplace violence.”

This standard establishes policies, processes, and protocols that organizations can adopt to identify potential and real threats; prevent threatening behavior and violence affecting the workplace; and resolve threats and violence that have occurred. It’s applicable to both private and public organizations.

Van Beek said workplace violence incorporates the full range of behaviors that can cause:

•  Injury. “An assault.”

•  Damage to property. “Somebody loses his/her temper, blows up, and break stuff at the workplace.”

•  Impede the normal course of work.

•  Makes workers, managers, and customers fear for their safety

•  A broad range of behaviors that due to their nature and/or severity, significantly affect the workplace, generate a concern for the personal safety, or result in physical injury or death.

The Violence Spectrum:

•  Low Level. “Disruptive, aggressive, hostile, or emotionally abusive behaviors that generate anxiety or create a climate of distrust and that adversely affect productivity or morale. It can escalate and require intervention.”

•  Mid Level. “Words or actions reasonably perceived to be intimidating, frightening, or threatening to employees. It includes direct, conditional, or veiled threats; stalking; or aggressive harassment.”

•  High Level. “Acts of violence causing physical injury. That includes non-fatal physical assaults, pushing, shoving, kicking, or biting.”

•  Worst Case. “Lethal violence, with or without weapons, that can involve shooting, stabbing, bombing, or any other deadly means.”

Van Beek said there are 19,000 violent workplace events annually that are committed by an intimate of the victim, so companies must integrate domestic violence into workplace violence prevention programs and provide a safe workplace for those who are affected by domestic violence and for co-workers.

Prevention program components:

•  Create a Threat Management Team. That includes multiple disciplines involved with prevention and response to workplace violence: security department, human relations department, legal, management, safety, union leaders, and external experts.

•  Formal risk/ security assessment. Identify and evaluate any present or potential threats/risk of violence within the organization, and also outside. Does the company have a means of tracking past incidents on a company-wide level?

•  Risk/security assessment. Track and analyze past incidents/potentially violent behavior: threats; violent acts; ominous fascination with weapons; bizarre comments of violent content; holding grudges and blaming others; hypersensitive complaints about persecution; making jokes about violent acts.

•  Written policies focused on appropriate workplace conduct: i.e. “No Threats, No Violence.” Other complimentary policies must be considered: injury/illness prevention; no weapons; harassment/discrimination; drug and alcohol; and code of business conduct.

Strategies for successful program implementation:

•  Designate a group to generate top-down commitment and implement the program.

•  Design the program and establish a plan for its implementation.

•  Establish a threat management team and develop an incident management protocol.

•  Develop and disseminate a workplace violence policy.

•  Develop threat response and incident management protocol: initial notification; management/HR involved; data gathering; confer with other organizational members; consult with external violence risk-assessment experts; employee movement from event; and grief counselors.

•  Roll out training throughout the organization.

•  Implement other preventive practices: access control; intrusion detection; visitor management; cameras; lock-down procedures; and panic alarms.

•  Monitor and evaluate. Schedule periodic team meetings to revise policies/procedures and practices as necessary.  ♦

About the Author

Rick Weber | Associate Editor

Rick Weber has been an associate editor for Trailer/Body Builders since February 2000. A national award-winning sportswriter, he covered the Miami Dolphins for the Fort Myers News-Press following service with publications in California and Australia. He is a graduate of Penn State University.