One of the most dangerous denials about workplace violence is, “It can’t happen here.” Workplace violence can occur in any workplace. At the same time, paranoia around the possibility is equally inappropriate and unhelpful. “Rational awareness” should inform all of our attitudes about workplace violence and our efforts to diminish the risk.
This book has focused primarily on steps that individual supervisors could take to reduce the risk of violence in their workplace. However, some actions can only be undertaken at the organizational level, hence the previous chapter, Advocate for Better Company Policies. This section of the book (Chapter 10) will discuss measures in the latter category, and most of the time will require action at organizational levels to achieve more secure workplaces.
It is also true that we have focused on Type III, Worker-on-Worker violence. The steps described in this chapter will be effective to reduce the risk of injury from all four types of violent events (see the Introduction).
What can organizations do to prepare for the day that someone arrives at their workplace with the intent to wreak havoc or do injury to others? It could be a stranger with criminal intent to commit a robbery. Perhaps a disgruntled customer or client arrives, seeking violent redress of a perceived grievance. It might be one of your own workers, or it could be the estranged spouse of one of your workers who has just been served a restraining order. What can you do to prepare for the unthinkable?
Harden the Target
Prepare your People
Hardening the Target
This phrase simply refers to measures taken that make committing a crime more difficult and reduce the opportunities for criminals to achieve their goal. There are many changes that organizations can implement, some simple and inexpensive, and others more extensive, to enhance the safety of workers and workplaces.
Walk through your facility and identify areas where lighting may be inadequate. Upgrading the lighting in dim or remote areas is a simple, inexpensive step toward increasing security.
Convex mirrors that offer a view of important areas, like entrances, cash registers and waiting rooms can provide an added measure of safety.
Are there doors in your facility that should be equipped with locks, but aren’t? Depending on the equipment, it may be easy and inexpensive to install locks on certain doors that could be a needed barrier between a violent perpetrator and intended victims. If you choose to do so, be sure to follow all appropriate OSHA regulations regarding locking doors.
When employment ends, are keys, name badges and access passes collected and checked in? Failure to follow this protocol has ended in disaster more than once. In 1987 David Burke was fired from his job at USAir. Using the USAir credentials that his supervisor, Ray Thompson, had failed to confiscate, Burke was able to bypass security armed with a loaded .44 magnum pistol to board the same flight Thompson was on. Mid flight, Burke killed both pilots and rammed the airliner into the ground, killing all 43 people aboard.
Determine how emergency information will be passed on to employees (like an intercom system). Designate a meeting location according to the nature of the emergency. Determine alternative means of egress and take steps to ensure that employees are not directed into a violent situation.
You might consider installing alarms on certain doors, or intruder detection devices in areas where a person’s presence might be considered suspicious at certain times.
Video or Closed Circuit TV
These systems are becoming more affordable and more sophisticated every day. Their very presence can be a deterrent, and could provide early warning of an impending violent event. Even a few seconds extra reaction time can save lives during a violent event in the workplace.
Depending on your conclusions during a security audit, it may be possible and prudent to install security glass, pass-through windows or extra deep counters.
There are too many effective hardening strategies to list them all here. In some cases it may be advisable to contract with a security consultant who can assess your organization’s physical location and make recommendations based on your needs. In addition, your local police department may be willing to help you make improvements at no charge. If your budget disallows hiring a consulting, simply contact your police department and inquire.
Preparing Your People
There are three possible human responses when faced with a threat to life or safety. These responses are generated in a part of the brain called the Amygdala, something described in Chapter Eight. Based on individual temperaments, experiences and training, those responses will be Fight, Flight or Freeze.
There are various training philosophies concerning how to respond to an active shooter or similar situation, and while there are differences, all of them have one thing in common: ANYTHING, even the wrong thing, is better than FREEZE. Preparing your people to respond to an imminent threat is all about Fighting the Freeze. Proper preparation involves more than just talking about what they should do in the event of a violent incident. It means intentional, specific training that enables them to respond automatically, collaboratively and effectively.