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Workplace Violence Prevention News

Should you start a workplace violence prevention program?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Preparation vs. Paranoia


   Should you start a workplace violence prevention program?


What happens if your organization prepares for a possible violent incident occurring and then spends time and money to write "zero-tolerance" policies, conducts training for staff and teaches managers what to look for and how to respond.....and then nothing happens?  Was the effort a waste?  I recently had a lengthy discussion with a manager in the Sacramento Region that believed exactly that; “companies waste time and money on a problem that can’t be prevented. “

My efforts to explain that workplace violence is not just about the dramatic mass shootings that are reported on the news fell on deaf ears.  I felt a personal challenge throughout the conversation to help him understand the risks of not preparing his organization.  In the end we agreed to disagree, and I left feeling nervous for his company.

While extreme, this attitude is one of the biggest obstacles you will face in convincing your organization to prepare for and address the issue of workplace violence.   The manager I spoke to believes that there are just too many other administrative and operational details to focus on starting a prevention program.   I will share some of the discussion points I tried to make with the him.

  • Workplace violence incidents occur at a rate of almost 2,000,000 per year
  • According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health workplace violence costs American business approximately 121 Billion dollars a year.
  • An organizations staff is largely a reflection of society.  Serious social issues like domestic violence find their way into our workplaces at rates that are similar to our communities.
  • Workplace violence includes threats, both veiled and direct, harassment, intimidation, physical assaults. 
  • A survey conducted earlier this year by Allied Barton showed that approximately 50 % of Americans who work outside their homes have been exposed to workplace violence.

I had no success trying to get him to understand the scope of the issue so I tried to explain some of the major benefits of establishing a workplace violence prevention program.  

  • Employee satisfaction and engagement will certainly be improved if they feel the organization cares about their safety as much as their productive.
  • Workplace violence programs can be rolled into existing workplace programs with very little effort and significant reduction in risk and exposure.
  • The financial cost of establishing a prevention program is almost embarrassingly low compared to the cost of responding to an incident of violence.   

At the end of our discussion I realized that I had failed in getting him to understand the different aspects of workplace violence.  I work in this field because I have a deep sense of responsibility to help protect workers from injury. My hope is that while I was not able to help this one manager,  there are many more people who are concerned and looking for solutions.  The key to making our workplaces safer is getting your organizations senior management to understand the risk.  Once they recognize that a problem exists, then and only then, can your organization start the process of developing a prevention program.

About the Author:
Mr. Alvarez is the founder of Alvarez Associates, a firm specializing in workplace violence prevention.    Having been both a security director for a national critical infrastructure and a city police officer, he has built over 25 years of experience in the field of violence prevention. He understands the challenges organizations and communities face addressing the threat of violence. He has personally evaluated and managed hundreds of potentially violent situations, developed numerous violence prevention programs and trained thousands of employees and managers in workplace violence prevention. He has also witnessed the collapse of civil order first-hand as a responder to both the Loma Prieta Earthquake and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

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