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Workplace Violence Prevention News

Workplace Violence Prevention - Getting started

Monday, September 24, 2012


One of the most difficult, but beneficial times to start a workplace violence (WPV) prevention program is before you have a major incident.   Unfortunately, not unlike other workplace issues that management must address, more often than not, addressing potential WPV issues does not become a priority until after an incident.   Loss of productivity, damaged reputations, potential lawsuits and injured employees are all major motivators.  In addition, in 2011 OSHA issued a directive to its field investigators on how to use the general duty clause to address issues of WPV.  This should be seen as a warning of increasing regulatory involvement.

Human Resources and Security organizations should work together to evaluate the risk of WPV and weigh the benefits of preventing inappropriate workplace behavior.  This is the key message that can be used to help senior management understand why it’s important to address WPV.   There is typically a stream of inappropriate and disruptive workplace behavior long before violence occurs.   WPV is usually a continuation of situations that Human Resource departments have already been addressing.  Existing programs to address sexual harassment, discrimination and other similar inappropriate behaviors can be used has foundations for WPV prevention programs.

I responded to one WPV issue where there was no physical harm and only very minor property damage and the loss to the organization exceeded $500,000 and loss of a multi-million dollar contract for a vendor.    The frustrating part was that the entire incident was easily both detectable and preventable.  These are two key messages that can help get senior management attention; most WPV can be prevented and it can cost a lot of money if we aren't prepared.  

Developing a WPV prevention program does not need to be a complicated process.  There are volumes of reference material available at little to no cost off the Internet. In addition, the American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS) and the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), in 2011 released a national standard for prevention programs that give step by step guidance for starting a program.  

Whatever state your WPV prevention efforts currently are in, the time to start or improve your program is before a major incident takes place. There is no reason to put your organization and employees at risk.  Take the time to understand a little bit more about WPV and then make your pitch to senior management!

There are six basic steps to starting your organizations WPV prevention program:

  • Obtain Senior leadership commitment
  • Develop written WPV prevention policies and procedures
  • Establish a pre-employment screening process
  • Conduct a Risk Assessment of the work environment
  • Establish a Multi-discipline team—Security, HR, Legal, Risk Management
  • Conduct training for staff and management

About the Author:

Having been both a security director for a national critical infrastructure and a city police officer, Hector Alvarez 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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