7 Ways to Reduce the Risk of Workplace Violence

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As we watch the news, incidents of workplace violence and active shooters are continually covered and presented as growing issues. Businesses, education institutions and organizations must be concerned with how to address incidents of violence in the workplace and how to respond to exposures.

Taking necessary precautions prior to a crisis can reduce the risk of workplace violence. Seven ways to reduce risks include:

  1. Creating a positive workplace cultureactive shooter
  2. Updating policies
  3. Training employees
  4. Establishing Behavioral Risk and Threat Assessment
  5. Implementing intelligence networks and monitoring
  6. Improving physical security
  7. Developing response protocols

Related content: Are You Really Prepared to Respond to an Active Shooter?

How Do We Reduce the Risk of Violence?

1. Culture

The first step in reducing the risk of workplace violence is fostering a positive atmosphere. Create a workplace culture where everyone (employees, students, etc.) is treated fairly and with respect and dignity.

2. Policies

Ensure policies and procedures are up-to-date (Workplace Violence, Weapons, Hostile Workplace and Bullying).

3. Training

Everyone within an organization must be trained on how to identify behaviors of concern and report the behaviors. Change is undoubtedly one of the greatest signs to identify. If an employee always complains, is loud and uses offensive language, that behavior is less concerning than the person who was once loud and is now silent.

If employees are not trained, behaviors of concern will not be identified and management will be taken by surprise when a violent incident does occur. Employees can be trained through a Behavioral Risk and Threat Assessment (BeRThA®) program.

4. Behavioral Risk and Threat Assessment

Conducting a Behavioral Risk and Threat Assessment (BeRThA®) will reduce the risk of violence. The BeRThA® program will assist your organization in understanding behaviors of concern and how to appropriately respond once they are identified. The program is comprised of four categories: Awareness training, intelligence network, central repository and the BeRThA® plan.

5. Intelligence Network- Monitoring

One way to monitor for behaviors of concern is via public social media channels and posts. Monitoring is more than just looking for a specific word like “knife” or “gun.” A strong monitoring plan will identify behaviors that may be a cry for help from a victim or recognizing an escalation of disregard for human life.

When people plan targeted violence they often tell at least one person about their plans, give out specifics before the event takes place and obtain weapons they need- usually from their own home or a relative’s home. In today’s world, people who have plans to be violent talk on social media by posting on Facebook, Twitter, etc. More than 75 percent of the attackers studied were known to hold a grudge or have a grievance at the time of the attack. Many attackers communicated with others about specific people, or specific reasons, prior to the attack.

Social Media Monitoring

Social media monitoring is more than just looking for a specific word like “knife” or “gun.” June, 2015 tweet by alleged murderer, Zachary Penton.

A string of social media posts by alleged murderer, Zachary Penton, – shown via these images – presents the escalation of events leading to a violent end. The posts continued through August 21, 2016 when he was arrested for killing his roommate. This incident shows multiple social media postings indicating the threat of violent behavior.

Twitter escalation

Twitter escalation 2

Not all threats lead to acts of violence if they are caught in advance. For a particular Firestorm client, a geofence was created around the property to monitor online publicly shared information. Within the geofence, an employee was identified who made more than 60 social media posts in one 8-hour shift.  The first posts revealed the employee was bored, they did not like their job, they did not like their supervisor and a racial issue was identified.  By the end of the shift, the last post contained a clear threat.  If this occurred in your workplace, would you want to know today, or would you want to know tomorrow when that individual had already walked in the door with the gun? Identifying threats in advance becomes important.

We need to look and listen. We need to report.

A solid monitoring plan reiterates the importance of understanding how someone escalates in their anger – in this case, by social media postings – and aggregating these posts so threats can be put into context. This process becomes a tremendous tool for businesses, schools, universities and organizations worldwide.

6. Physical Security

This area of security includes access and awareness of physical property. Who can walk into your workplace and do you have security measures in place? All entrance points – doors, windows, etc. – and surrounding areas must be analyzed.

7. Response Protocols

The efforts of reducing violence should be focused on preventative measures. Instead of focusing on how to act when a gun is brought into the workplace, instead, concentrate on how to prevent a gun from entering in the first place.

The question is not if a crisis will occur at your workplace, but rather when. Firestorm can identify your organization’s next crisis, but more importantly, you can. Firestorm crisis management planning is based on past experiences and what we have learned from crisis situations. We want to help you mitigate the risk and impacts of a crisis – whether that be an incident of workplace violence, a data breach or natural disaster. Do not hesitate to contact the Firestorm team, or a Firestorm principal for questions or assistance.

Related articles:

How to Communicate on Social Media when Tragedy Strikes: Experts Weigh In for SEMRush

From Claims Journal: Staying Ahead of Workplace Violence by Identifying Behaviors of Concern

A Disruptive Approach – Active Shooter Exposures and Predictive Programs

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