Workplace Violence: Planning for Prevention and Response

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Workplace violence in all its forms is becoming more prevalent and pervasive every year. Workplace Violence: Planning for Prevention and Response gives a comprehensive account of the problem using a multi-faceted approach to the issues surrounding workplace violence incidents, addressing how the topic affects victims, witnesses, the workforce, family members, and management. A series of chapters helps organizations to form action and response plans to manage incidents both large and small. The focus also includes organizations that are forced to address violent individuals in settings where law enforcement may not be immediately available. Kerr speaks first-hand about complex issues like corporate liability for violent or threatening acts committed by employees, as well as issues of privacy, and he includes chapters written by experts on legal issues, cyberthreats, and anger in the workplace. This book belongs on the desk of every security manager and HR professional, and offers solid advice to all managers regardless of the size of their organization.

• Details the problem from all angles to helpthe reader design a comprehensive strategy for all constituent groups.
• Provides proven, detailed support for creating policies and procedures, awareness, and response training.
• Discuses real-life case studies to help readers understand how to apply strategies discussed in the book.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Kerr's unique perspective on conflict and violence in the workplace, based on his years of professional experience, will help you prevent or respond to incidents in your organization."—Bonnie Michelman, Head of Security, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA

"One of the foremost experts in the field of personnel security and workplace violence, Kim M. Kerr, CPP, has put together a comprehensive and functional manual. This book’s 15 chapters are easily digested, providing the reader with a great understanding of workplace-violence dynamics and remedies, such as increasingly common zero-tolerance policies. Kerr outlines the pros and cons of such policies, not only from a management perspective but also from an employee perspective…. Of tremendous value are 12 appendices that can assist the reader in crafting sound policies and procedures. Templates include workplace weapons and violence policies, emergency procedures, and plans for active-shooter response and disaster recovery…. This must-read book presents an in-depth look at the dynamics of workplace violence."—Kevin Siegmund, Security Management Magazine

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781856176989
  • Publisher: Elsevier Science
  • Publication date: 4/28/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 7.70 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Read an Excerpt


Planning for Prevention and Response


Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-08-095921-4

Chapter One


It has been said that the only constant in this world of ours is change. In the realm of violence and violence prevention, this statement is also true to some extent. However, it is important to incorporate the principles of asset protection, which have been tried and true for many years, as a baseline for action. The key is to establish a strategy that is flexible enough to adapt to emerging and ongoing threats. It is vital that the tools to combat violence in your organization are adaptable that they might properly address changes in the violence climate as they come to bear. Hopefully, your point person(s) in this effort is plugged in to the pertinent intelligence and news sources to gather and trend data in an attempt to correctly forecast the likelihood and severity of violent behavior within your organization.

When the phenomenon of violence in the workplace came into our collective conscience in the mid-1980s, we were rocked by the number of mass murders that blazed across the headlines. However, in all fairness, there have been changes in how we view the problem as well as notable improvement, especially in the homicide rates. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, there has been a steady decline in the number of murders directly linked to violence in the workplace. In the mid-1990s, the year-over-year murder totals exceeded 1,000. In 2006, there were less than 550. This is a drop of nearly 50 percent over the previous decade.

In Figure 1-1, you will note that death in the workplace shows the workplace homicide trend is counter to the overall numbers of deaths by other causes. For example, highway accidents, falls, and being hit by objects have risen or stayed relatively flat although homicides have dropped significantly. Does this mean that we, as a society, are winning the war against violence in the workplace? It would seem that in this one category there has been vast improvement. Clearly, the efforts of security, HR, and management have been working in this area to some degree. But, counter to that statistic, we've seen an increase in reports of threats, assaults, bullying, and domestic violence spilling into the workplace.

Still, violence in the workplace is the fourth leading cause of death in the workplace and the leading cause of death for women. Workplace violence is an evil and corrosive poison that can rob an organization of its focus, resources, and, in extreme cases, its ability to operate entirely. So, it is still a serious threat to our commerce and way of life. But the real point is that the face of workplace violence may be changing ever so slightly. This year alone there will be approximately 1.5–2 million incidences of violence in the workplace that will undoubtedly affect these organizations. These acts can be measured in violent terms such as threats, acts of intimidation, bullying, and physical assault including sexual assault, rape, and sexual battery. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, murder is still the fourth largest reason people die on the job; however, over the last decade, there has been some improvement. Experts speculate about why this is the case, but in general, the impact may be a combination of factors. Currently, larger organizations have violence in the workplace prevention policies and programs. This may influence the statistics in a couple of ways. The first effect that corporate workplace prevention policies and programs may have on the statistics is the reduction in the more serious incidents like murder. Secondly, these programs may also account for the increase in reports of assaults and threats.

To further scope this issue, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) (http://www has compiled an overwhelming amount of data, surveys, and studies to shed light on the problem. To proceed with this discussion, it would only seem appropriate to define the type of violence that is discussed in this work in the typology table produced by CAL/OSHA 1995.

It is important to note that 85 percent of all violence in the workplace falls into category I. Therefore, excluding any discussion around the prevention of external issues is incomplete. However, a deep dive into all the physical security nuances is not the main purpose of this work even though a rigorous overview and suggested strategy will be discussed referencing other sources for even greater clarity. The best practice is to interlace the principles and processes of both internal and external risks that should be considered for the individual reader's particular situation and organization. This topic will be covered in a subsequent chapter.

There is a significant rise in bullying incidences reported by businesses today. According to the Employment Law Alliance, a staggering 50 percent of all workers reportedly complained that they were abused in some way at work. Whether this perception is a new phenomenon or HR and security organizations have had an impact on getting workers to report such abuse is unclear. Regardless, this is a troubling statistic and area of violence in the workplace which will be addressed in a later chapter.

Reviewing the current works on this subject reveals a litany of statistics that help demonstrate the size of the problem, which can cause a loss in perspective for individual incidents. Having been involved in investigations of violent behavior in organizations—both large and small—this author has observed a consistency in how this subject is approached by professionals who have published on the subject. In this macro approach, which seems to be the most frequently taken in other books on this topic, all organizations are synthesized into trends and numbers. However, the real issues boil down to whether or not the members of an organization believe, with every fiber of their beings, that an incident could happen or is happening within their organization or place of business. For those of us who have been a victim, witness, or family member affected by workplace violence—the question is moot. Of course it might happen. We need to stay alert and focused on the issue. We need to ask questions, engage, communicate, and be vigilant.

It appears that one of the biggest symptoms of this problem is denial—denial that an incident is happening or could happen. This "it won't happen here" perspective is the greatest enemy to a successful prevention and reaction strategy. If a business is lulled into a sense that WPV does not apply to their business or that the stronger threat is external, then the chances that an incident is teeing up as you read this page are better than you think. You are putting your business or organization at risk by denying the reality that it can happen to you.

Operating in denial of the possibility of Workplace Violence (WPV) is especially true for small businesses. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 70 percent of businesses do not have a violence prevention policy or program. The issue of WPV may be included in broad base language as "disruptive behavior" or "violation of law," but it is not attacked directly. In other words, the problem and policy are not called out as a subset of an overall need for the business. Most experts agree that organizations need to draw universal attention to the issue by communicating what the policy is and what each team member or employee is responsible to report, respond to, and avoid. One of the most pressing issues is simply understanding how to report a concern. This is especially true in company cultures where reporting is considered a heavy "no-no," resulting in the reporting employee becoming persona non grata with the rest of the workforce. A facet of reporting should consider anonymity and confidentiality wherever or whenever possible.

Awareness of WPV goes beyond making policy decisions to address violence. There should be a clear strategy to introduce any new employee to a thorough understanding of the policy and procedures, and his or her reporting responsibility. The general employee body should review these policies and procedures annually to keep the issue ever green in their minds. The message should be, "Yes, it can happen here."

Also, after an incident has occurred, there should be disclosure of what has happened and what changes are being implemented in response to the event. These changes very well could include stricter access control. By explaining the experience in a generic way and discussing the need to adjust the security approach, you will add to the credibility of your program and allow employees to ask questions and offer feedback.

Policies should include some creative solutions for communicating and reporting violent events. These methodologies should be clearly understood by the entire universe of constituents in your organization and tested routinely. Contractors and vendors should be fully educated as well. Conduct surveys and Q and A sessions with the workforce to make sure they understand what their role is with regard to violence reporting and response.

If there are hotlines or other ways to anonymously report events or suspicious activity, the number of reports would, logically, go up. Therefore, the statistics surrounding incidences or suspicion and concerns would better reflect what is really going on under the hood of everyday interaction within an organization. Email, text messaging, and other tools might also have an impact by allowing the witnesses to report what is going on before they rationalize why it would be better to keep quiet. Responses also tend to be quicker.

However, if you establish hotlines or other communication protocols and you do not receive reports, you may want to revisit the culture that exists within your organization. There may be some trust factors that are preventing the reporting of incidences, or the training may be saying one thing while supervisors or union representatives are saying another. Employee surveys may hold the key to understanding the perception of confidentiality within your organization.

The press also impacts the perspectives and understandings of the underpinnings of WPV. Walter Cronkite, the famous news anchor for CBS, used to end his nightly news by saying, "And that's the way it is." The advent of more and more news outlets and mediums really contradicts that statement. Not only are our local and national news media able to report events in almost real time, but the more sensational events are magnified to give the appearance that we are in the midst of an explosion of violence in the workplace. If there is a relationship angle, like domestic violence, the story can take on an even larger, more reportable twist. Often-times, web news, blogs, and 24/7 news cycles bring awareness to events, and sometimes even sensationalize the story, but offer very little follow-up on the causes and conditions. From a practitioner's perspective, most reports create more questions and perpetuate more false assumptions than answers. In fact, it is fascinating that there is language that even extended myths about workplace violence of the Types II, III, and IV of violence discussed in Table 1-1. Further, if you drill down on the various reports, key issues emerge as to what is being reported and where the root cause may lie, giving some allowance to the use of entertaining language and the lack of a full investigation of all extenuating factors that may not have been addressed by the reporter; these reports raise issues that may frame the discussion.

So the questions here are obvious: Why wasn't something done long before this incident went south—ending in a homicide? What was the culture like at this particular place of business that allowed employees to engage in long-standing arguments that may have been common knowledge to at least the coworkers? What was the management style like here that allowed this to happen? Or, did the management even know? Were the disputes ever reported to anyone or relayed to HR or security? A deeper read into the article tells the reader that bystanders tried to break up the fight. What were the company incident response plans, or did such a plan exist? This is no mom and pop shop. This company has locations in eight states!

The commenter of the article makes the common and erroneous assumption that HR is in the loop. With the rising cost of administration, HR departments are often not on site. More and more, the HR function is not only remote—it is even outsourced. Like security, HR is a cost center, and centralization of HR leaves the day-to-day discipline response requirements to the local managers. Is there a union here? Were they involved in forming a solution or alternatives to reporting a potential incident? The many questions this short article generated illustrate the many misconceptions around violence in the workplace. It also demonstrates that many individuals who may know about conflict do not report what they know. They may not know how to report such an issue, or they may assume the issue is none of their business or not worthy of reporting. Was the culture at this workplace one that tried to ignore conflict? Unaddressed conflict, over time, can, and almost always will, grow and morphs into rage and hatred causing the participants to see no way out or no solution for resolution that doesn't involve threats, assault, and revengeful acts or, as in this case, murder.

So the reader should be asking him- or herself some systemic questions: what is the culture of my workplace? What is the level of tolerance for acts of violence or sexual harassment before a report is made? Is there a difference in tolerance between sexual harassment and violence or threats of violence? What is the attitude of the person or persons who routinely receive the report? Is your culture one of making sure you complete your due diligence while not addressing the morality of how we should treat each other in the workplace? Are you reluctant to speak out because your voice would fall on deaf ears for the sake of maintaining status quo?

It is imperative to be honest with the collective conscience of the organization as to what is going to have to be overcome to really have the organization buy into the idea that there are issues of culture to address before an effective WPV prevention program can be rolled out or changes implemented to the existing one. If the overall thinking is that "it could never happen here," then the business may be, inadvertently, teeing up an incident.

This attitude of underestimating the daily threats can extend to access control. Lax access control to the workplace by unknown or unauthorized parties before establishing their business purposes poses a real threat. Most security professionals agree that access control is key to mitigating both external and internal threats to the organization on many fronts including violence prevention. The next example is a shocking illustration of how crucial proper access control really is. This story involves an incident at a day care in Dendermonde, Belgium, reported by the Associated Press on January 3, 2009. In this case, three deaths were reported including two children. Ten others were wounded in the assault. Here, the perpetrator arrived on a bike and "was let in" where he immediately starting slashing people. He had no known prior connection to this business. The key question here is the circumstances around the "was let in" comment. What was the access control process and perimeter security at this day care? Access to children by unauthorized persons takes on many dimensions including child abduction and sexual abuse. But in this case, the perpetrator was focused on harm. So, a strong access control process can potentially prove highly effective, even life saving.

A large part of dealing with violence is physical security processes, procedures, and devices. How we deal with controlling the movement and access of employees, vendors, contractors, and visitors is critical to effective prevention of WPV. If violence is seemingly random, without warning signs when coming from outside the organization, how do you deal with the day-to-day business? What is the risk associated with your particular type of business or function within your facility? These questions need to be asked about not only your business but also the businesses in adjacent facilities. If you are in a condominium arrangement, what are the businesses of your neighbors?


Excerpted from WORKPLACE VIOLENCE by KIM M. KERR Copyright © 2010 by Elsevier Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Butterworth-Heinemann. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Violence - A Matter of Perspective? Chapter 2 The Near Miss Chapter 3 Victims of Workplace Violence: A Life-Changing Event Chapter 4 Legal Obligations and Workplace Violence Chapter 5 Workplace Culture that may Breed Violence Chapter 6 Business Impacts of Workplace Violence Chapter 7 Reaction and Recovery: Treating the Wounds of Violence Chapter 8 Early Warning Signs: Can the Problem be Stopped Before It Starts? Chapter 9 Proactively Dealing with Anger in the Workplace Chapter 10 Violence on Campus: A New and Evolving Threat Chapter 11 Background Screening: Important, but Not the Silver Bullet Chapter 12 Policies and Procedures: Creating a Framework for Prevention and Reaction Chapter 13 Training Chapter 14 Investigating Incidents: Responding to an Active Shooter Chapter 15 Cyber Threats: An Emerging Concern Epilogue: And the Beat Goes On Appendix A Sample Emergency Procedures Appendix B Sample Generic Plan and Procedure: Disaster Recovery Plan for Operations/Data Center Appendix C Sample Workplace Violence Policy Appendix D Selection of a Background Screening Provider Appendix E Early Warning Signs of Violence from an Internal Source Appendix F Checklist for Violence Attracting Conditions Appendix G Ways to Diffuse Frustration in the Workplace Appendix H CLEAR Appendix I Ways to Avoid the Cost of Violence in the Workplace Appendix J Responding to Active Shooters Appendix K Sample Workplace Weapons Policy Appendix L Sample Workplace Violence Prevention Policy

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