6 Steps to take TODAY to Identify Workplace Violence Threats

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For a longer paper to be released in February, I recently asked Firestorm Co-founder and CAO Suzy Loughlin:

“How can an organization best identify and mitigate violent risks, including emerging threats and new risks?”

Suzy’s response is below, and is a critical starting place for any conversation related to Workplace Violence Prevention in any organization.

6 Steps to take TODAY to Identify Workplace Violence Threats

Suzy LoughlinThere are many threats to which every workplace environment is vulnerable.  Man-made threats related to the use of deadly weapons and terrorism, as well as sexual harassment and assault, hostile workplace and bullying, gang exposures and kidnapping, domestic violence spilling over into the workplace must be confronted.

While workplace shootings are very low probability events, they have extreme impacts, and could result in loss of life and extensive injuries. They also create tremendous turnover in the months that follow, as employees no longer feel safe. They therefore must also be planned for.

  1. Addressing the risk of workplace violence must start with a vulnerability and threat assessment process –  one that leads to hazard identification, where employees may be subjected to workplace violence or physical injury.  Once the hazard identification is complete, the risks must be prioritized according to both likelihood of occurrence and how serious the injuries or harm might be.  Understanding hazards and risks will allow an organization to take appropriate steps in its strategies to deal with workplace violence. This should be done annually to ensure you identify emerging threats, and threats that are new as a result of organizational changes, technology changes, or external changes in the community.
  2. Conduct Surveys – Reach out to employees in a proactive manner to determine if there are concerns that might need to be addressed; identify areas of improvements that need your focus.
  3. Monitor Trends – Establish a process for monitoring trends in violent incidents, inside and outside your organization. Regularly review incidents that occur.
  4. Create Awareness – Train everyone in the workplace to recognize the warning signs—the ‘behaviors of concern’ – that should be reported. The goal is to intervene following the exhibition of certain behaviors – long before the employee wants to bring a gun to work
  5. Conduct Pre-Employment Screening of all employees to help protect against, and prevent the introduction of, potential issues that could impact your work environment. In addition the release obtained to conduct the background check should permit updated checks at the employer’s discretion, as an individual’s circumstances may have changed since the first background check, making the individual no longer suitable for employment or to have access to your facility.
  6. Utilize Predictive Intelligence – The earlier a problem is detected, the less impact it will have on your organization. While there is no guarantee that every threat will be captured, intelligence monitoring must be part of your workplace violence prevention program. There are threats and risks you can identify, before they become crises, if you listen and look. People know things – and when they know, they talk. Today, people talk on social media.

Initial threats or risk behaviors are frequently shared or observed on social media. What happens tomorrow is already on social media today. Social Media is not random; it’s targeted.  Most social media messages provide specific information about people, organizations or events. Because they are targeted, they can and do convey useful intelligence that can be used to identify threats before they become crises. Establishing triggers that have been aligned with appropriate monitoring techniques allows your organization to identify and respond appropriately to early indicators of developing events.

Your organization should focus on ensuring these monitoring procedures are put in place.

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