Emergency Preparedness, Policies and Training

Workplace Violence Prevention: Essential Program Components

In Friday’s Total Security Daily Advisor, 2019 Workplace Violence Prevention Symposium keynote speaker Dick Sem, CPP CSC, discussed the importance of building an appropriate culture of communication and outlined some of the key warning signs that precede a workplace violence incident; today we present what Sem asserts are essential components of any workplace violence prevention program.

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Four Essential Components of Workplace Violence Prevention

#1. Prevention—the most effective and powerful way to avoid violence

  • Create comprehensive policies, plans, and procedures that clearly address necessary actions, and help foster a civil and respectful workplace culture.
  • Conduct employee and supervisor training:
    • Provide special training for public-facing staff—hotel, retail, healthcare—and for those handling cash or pharmaceuticals.
  • Emphasize the importance of staff awareness: See Something, Say Something.
  • Clarify the duty of employees to report, and provide a private, secure reporting channel.
  • Clarify duty of management to respond, not rationalize, minimize, or excuse. (“That’s just Joe,” “Terry’s having a bad day, a little stress, she’ll get over it.”)
  • Cover how to recognize, de-escalate, and safely manage aggressive, confrontational, and threatening behavior.

#2. Mitigation and De-escalation

When there is a threat, conduct detailed interviews with the victim(s) and other knowledgeable persons concerning:

  • History of relationship with aggressor.
  • Intimidating, threatening, or violent behavior of aggressor.
  • Aggressor’s training, use, and/or access to weapons.
  • Historical and current use or abuse of alcohol and drugs by aggressor and victim.
  • Mental and emotional history of aggressor and victim as known.
  • Current employment status of aggressor and victim, along with their location and stability.
  • Current family relationships of aggressor and victim—proximity, intensity, dynamics, support (sometimes, the family will get a person committed, which the company can’t do)
  • Other current or imminent issues that could be disruptive or stressful.
  • Identification of other sources of independent, credible verification/perspective for both parties.

Other steps may include:

  • Conduct a detailed check of public records, including law enforcement records.
  • Conduct a very detailed interview with the aggressor.

When assessing the risk, consider the following:

  • Exactly what has happened, or is alleged to have happened?
  • Who reported the incident/situation? Is that person credible?
  • Who are possible witnesses or others who may be able to provide useful input?
  • What are the possible motivations for the incident/situation?
  • How imminent is the possibility for further negative or harmful action?
  • Are persons who are involved and/or in the vicinity reasonably safe at this time?
  • What about the setting or situation may permit or facilitate, rather than prevent or impede, violence?
  • How vulnerable or at risk is the potential target(s)?
  • Who or what other functions (e.g., public relations, outside counselors, outside law enforcement or security experts) should be brought in?
  • Is there any imminent potential impact on the employer, its reputation, and its ability to function?
  • Will there likely be media attention concerning this situation/incident?


Workplace Violence Prevention Symposium

Depending on the outcome of the risk assessment, some possible mitigation strategies include:

  • Do nothing, continue to monitor situation.
  • Take steps to defuse the stress of person(s) involved.
  • Separate persons involved.
  • Commission a psychological Risk Assessment.
  • Assign ongoing remediation plan or “Last Chance Agreement.”
  • Discipline up to termination for cause.
  • Obtain clinical intervention/treatment.
  • Obtain Restraining Orders/Orders of Protection—but remember that they can be inflammatory.
  • Involve law enforcement—can be very supportive and useful; however, this can be inflammatory as well. An undercover person nearby may be a good approach.
  • Establish ongoing contact—you never know what people are thinking; maybe have someone who got on well with the individual check in.
  • Implement additional security measures.

#3. Response to Incidents

In 95% of situations, says Sem, your own staff is enough to address the situation, but be sure not to send your responders into something they are not trained for, such as an active shooter situation, says Sem.

Be especially careful with if you have panic buttons in your facility—first responders tend to rush into the unknown.

#4. Recovery

It’s a good idea to review and reflect following an incident; here are some questions to ask yourself, says Sem:

  • Is the event truly over?
  • What are the chances of recurrence?
  • What can we do for those involved and affected by the incident? (A shooting affects everyone. Companies that experience better recovery outcomes are the those willing to spend on counseling, Sem says.)
  • What are lessons did we learn?
  • How and what should we communicate with those affected directly, along with interested internal and external audiences? (A shooting will attract national and international press.)
alt link text Dick Sem, CPP CSC, is the President of Sem Security Management, a firm specializing in security planning for hospitals and clinics, manufacturers, office buildings, schools, and other facilities. He has 47 years of combined security and workplace management experience. Sem previously served as Global Director of Security and Crisis Management for Waste Management for 11 years and as Vice President of Pinkerton- Securitas, where he was responsible for 18 offices in 11 states of the Northeast United States. He has served clients as an independent security and workplace violence consultant for more than 20 years.

Dick Sem will deliver the keynote address, “Culture and Complacency: Overcoming the ‘It Won’t Happen Here’ Mentality on Workplace Violence” at the 2019 Workplace Violence Prevention Symposium. Register Now!