Workplace violence (WPV) cannot be 100% prevented. However, we know from experience that well-placed preparedness and prevention measures can significantly diminish the probability and severity of potential workplace violence.

A prime example comes as an outgrowth of the multiple “going Postal” shootings at the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) by employees or ex-employees (mostly in the 1990s). Out of necessity, USPS implemented a comprehensive workplace violence program throughout their organization. As a result, with approximately 750,000 employees at the time, USPS went over eight (8) years without an employee or ex-employee shooting by utilising a workplace violence program like the program outlined herein. This author contributed to the development and implementation of the USPS program in the 1990s.

Formal people management training

One noteworthy component that was implemented appeared to be a major contributor to the success of the USPS program. Previously, supervisors and managers were promoted from within the ranks with no formal training in “people management.” The culture was one of mostly autocratic, top down management. As a part of the WPV program, supervisors and managers were trained not only in identifying and reporting WPV threatening situations, but also in how to lead with dignity and compassion. The latter component seemed to be a vital cultural component that led to the success of the WPV program.

How To Design A Workplace Violence Program

The following components of a comprehensive Workplace Violence Program can be used as a template to assess one’s present WPV program. This exhaustive list includes all the main components, and may include more or fewer controls according to individual organization’s culture.

  1. Workplace violence policy: Defines workplace violence and consequences for policy Contains verbiage that will support managers who must confront potentially violent individuals. Content is periodically updated to address new issues and State laws, e.g., concealed weapons, gun possession in vehicles at work, bullying, discrimination, etc. Some organizations omit the “zero tolerance” statement in belief that it inhibits reporting of violations by employees who erroneously believe it implies automatic firing of violators.

  2. Threat notification system: Clearly communicated availability and access for reporting threatening behavior and situations. Confidentiality for those who report is addressed. Anonymous reporting is typically available. Disciplinary action is defined for those knowingly making false reports. Reporting can be provided through an internal vs. external provider. Ongoing reminders (posters, flyers, etc.) are provided to employees and supervisors.

  3. Social media intelligence monitoring: Ongoing monitoring of openly available social media posts that identify warnings, threatening discourse, mental health disorders associated with violent ideation, and other signs of violence against people and the workplace. Monitoring can be provided through internal or external resources. Protocol is established for reporting monitored threats to management and timely, appropriate response.

  4. Threat management team: Multidisciplinary management team trained and exercised in handling threatening situations. The team is responsive to threat notifications on a timely and thorough basis. At a minimum, representation from legal, HR and security are core members. Other disciplines are included, e.g., union reps and/or additional staff positions, as appropriate. External team members and specialists are included as core or ad hoc members. 
Clear and actionable guidelines for managing threatening situations are utilised for effective, efficient and defensible threat management
As a part of the WPV programme, supervisors and managers were trained in identifying and reporting WPV threatening situations
  1. External relationships established: Relationships are established with professionals and specialists to support the Threat Management Team, e.g., local law enforcement, threat assessment and defusing professionals, attorney(s), judges with jurisdiction over domestic violence and injunctive relief, guard services, surveillance, covert, investigations, executive protection, dispute resolution, hostility management, linguistic analysis, IT forensics, polygraph testing, outplacement services, etc.

  2. Threat management team manual and system: Clear and actionable guidelines for managing threatening situations are utilised for effective, efficient and defensible threat management. The same protocol is used, even though team members may change. Guidelines include immediate actions, assessment, investigations, defusing methods, follow-up, purposeful disengagement, and legally compliant documentation. Authority, communications and expectations are defined.  
  1. Pre-employment reference checking / Criminal background checks: Reference-check questions to assess potentially violent job applicants that previous employers feel compelled to report, e.g., “So I can document my file, do we have any reason to be concerned about this applicant from a workplace violence standpoint? Protocol for legally-compliant pre-employment and “for-cause” criminal background checks. 
  1. Character-based pre-employment interview questions: Pre-employment interviews designed to identify individuals with violent history, character problems, entitlement issues, anger and sociopathic tendencies. Compliance with “ban the box” legislation related to hiring persons with criminal histories. 
  1. Hostility management training: Take-and-use methods for managers, supervisors and employees regarding how to calm hostile situations in real time vs. Inadvertently provoking increased aggression or violence. 
  1. Corporate security program: Physical and IT Security Director(s) that integrate violence-related threat management (prevention, preparedness and response) with other appropriate corporate disciplines, e.g., HR, legal, facilities, site management, unions, etc. Methods established for investigating electronically-generated threats. 
  1. Physical security audit: Periodic assessment of facilities, property, security systems and other methods for monitoring and preventing breaches and potential violence. It is best if this audit is conducted under attorney privilege.
  1. Tracking of threatening situations: Ongoing Management Information System (MIS) that identifies, compiles, and tracks data re: the occurrences of threats (toward people, the organization, reputation, and/or property) i.e., electronic, written, verbal, symbolic, etc. Risks may be related to location of workplace(s) in a community, industry incidents, local crime rates, employee population, previous incidents, near misses, etc. Tracking of motives could be related to supervisor/employee conflicts, employee-on-employee hostilities, domestic violence, drugs and alcohol, crime/robberies, toxic work environment, union/management conflicts, activist groups, terrorism, political, kidnap and ransom, etc. 
  1. External provider screening: Investigation of methods used by external providers to screen out potentially violent contractors in your workplace, e.g., temporary placement agencies, catering services, consultants, contractors, security services, etc. 
Ongoing information about the organisation’s WPV programme, recognising and reporting threatening situations, and hostility management methods
The WPV program should include reference-check questions to assess potentially violent job applicants that previous employers feel compelled to report
  1. Layoffs/Terminations protocol: Guidelines and protocol for preparation and implementation of disciplinary meetings, layoffs, and for-cause terminations when hostility and potential violence are a concern. Caring communications, crisis actions, staging of the meeting, law enforcement or guard services, threat assessment and defusing psychologist, outplacement services, severance payments, protection of dignity, etc. may be included in the preparedness planning. 
  1. Supervisory training: Methods for disciplining and managing employees who are potentially violent or hostile. Skills training regarding the people-side of supervision, e.g., caring and compassionate handling of employee issues and human complexities that arise during supervision and working relationships. 
  1. Employee workplace violence publicity: Ongoing information about the organization’s WPV program, recognizing and reporting threatening situations, and hostility management methods. Orientation for employees at least annually and for new employees. 
  1. Employee assistance program: EAP provider that has access to skilled anger management specialists and an internal threat-related “duty-to-warn” protocol that involves more than solitary judgment of the clinician, i.e., collaborative/supervisory procedures when potential violence is a concern. EAP professionals that are trained in boundary issues regarding when it's appropriate to utilize outside resources into potentially violent situations, e.g., organization’s management, law enforcement, threat specialists, etc. Avoidance of unethical “dual relationships” where the EAP is serving the threatening individual and the Threat Management Team simultaneously. EAP should have local domestic violence relationships, e.g., women’s shelters, men’s stopping violence groups, etc. 
  1. Domestic violence program: Guidelines and assistance for employees who are subjected to, or notice evidence of, domestic violence. Protocol for domestic threats that can come into the workplace, if additional employees are targeted, and when restraining orders are issued by employees, especially when the violator’s access to the workplace is prohibited. 
  1. Employee survey: Inclusion of violence issues in employee surveys. 
  1. Alternative dispute resolution program: Methods to address situations that may include hostilities and potential violence, e.g., structured intervention by threat-experienced psychologist, coaching, facilitated communications, negotiation, mediation, collaborative law and arbitration. 
  1. Emergency and post-crisis response system: Evacuation, shelter in place, active shooter plan, lock down, safe rooms, etc. with employee/supervisory training and exercises on a periodic basis. Floor warden system. Beyond emergency response, development of strategic crisis management preparations for senior management to protect core assets affected by violent incidents, e.g., employees, key relationships, reputation, finances, shareholder value, brand, operations and physical/intellectual property.

These guidelines are listed as a generic template to help an organization evaluate their present Workplace Violence Program. A comprehensive program may not include each of these components and it may include other elements that are not listed herein. This checklist is to be used with prudent management judgment in designing a comprehensive Workplace Violence Program that best fits the organization’s time, budget, culture, and risk tolerance.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

Author profile

Bruce Blythe Owner & Executive Chairman, R3 Continuum

In case you missed it

Safety In Smart Cities: How Video Surveillance Keeps Security Front And Center
Safety In Smart Cities: How Video Surveillance Keeps Security Front And Center

Urban populations are expanding rapidly around the globe, with an expected growth of 1.56 billion by 2040. As the number of people living and working in cities continues to grow, the ability to keep everyone safe is an increasing challenge. However, technology companies are developing products and solutions with these futuristic cities in mind, as the reality is closer than you may think. Solutions that can help to watch over public places and share data insights with city workers and officials are increasingly enabling smart cities to improve the experience and safety of the people who reside there. Rising scope of 5G, AI, IoT and the Cloud The main foundations that underpin smart cities are 5G, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Cloud. Each is equally important, and together, these technologies enable city officials to gather and analyze more detailed insights than ever before. For public safety in particular, having IoT and cloud systems in place will be one of the biggest factors to improving the quality of life for citizens. Smart cities have come a long way in the last few decades, but to truly make a smart city safe, real-time situational awareness and cross-agency collaboration are key areas which must be developed as a priority. Innovative surveillance cameras with integrated IoT Public places need to be safe, whether that is an open park, shopping center, or the main roads through towns Public places need to be safe, whether that is an open park, shopping center, or the main roads through towns. From dangerous drivers to terrorist attacks, petty crime on the streets to high profile bank robberies, innovative surveillance cameras with integrated IoT and cloud technologies can go some way to helping respond quickly to, and in some cases even prevent, the most serious incidents. Many existing safety systems in cities rely on aging and in some places legacy technology, such as video surveillance cameras. Many of these also use on-premises systems rather than utilising the benefits of the cloud. Smart programming to deliver greater insights These issues, though not creating a major problem today, do make it more challenging for governments and councils to update their security. Changing every camera in a city is a huge undertaking, but in turn, doing so would enable all cameras to be connected to the cloud, and provide more detailed information which can be analyzed by smart programming to deliver greater insights. The physical technologies that are currently present in most urban areas lack the intelligent connectivity, interoperability and integration interfaces that smart cities need. Adopting digital technologies isn’t a luxury, but a necessity. Smart surveillance systems It enables teams to gather data from multiple sources throughout the city in real-time, and be alerted to incidents as soon as they occur. Increased connectivity and collaboration ensures that all teams that need to be aware of a situation are informed instantly. For example, a smart surveillance system can identify when a road accident has occurred. It can not only alert the nearest ambulance to attend the scene, but also the local police force to dispatch officers. An advanced system that can implement road diversions could also close roads around the incident immediately and divert traffic to other routes, keeping everyone moving and avoiding a build-up of vehicles. This is just one example: without digital systems, analyzing patterns of vehicle movements to address congestion issues could be compromised, as would the ability to build real-time crime maps and deploy data analytics which make predictive policing and more effective crowd management possible. Cloud-based technologies Cloud-based technologies provide the interoperability, scalability and automation Cloud-based technologies provide the interoperability, scalability and automation that is needed to overcome the limitations of traditional security systems. Using these, smart cities can develop a fully open systems architecture that delivers interoperation with both local and other remote open systems. The intelligence of cloud systems can not only continue to allow for greater insights as technology develops over time, but it can do so with minimal additional infrastructure investment. Smart surveillance in the real world Mexico City has a population of almost 9 million people, but if you include the whole metropolitan area, this number rises sharply to over 21 million in total, making it one of the largest cities on the planet. Seven years ago, the city first introduced its Safe City initiative, and ever since has been developing newer and smarter ways to keep its citizens safe. In particular, its cloud-based security initiative is making a huge impact. Over the past three years, Mexico City has installed 58,000 new video surveillance cameras throughout the city, in public spaces and on transport, all of which are connected to the City’s C5 (Command, Control, Computers, Communications and Citizen Contact) facility. Smart Cities operations The solution enables officers as well as the general public to upload videos via a mobile app to share information quickly, fixed, body-worn and vehicle cameras can also be integrated to provide exceptional insight into the city’s operations. The cloud-based platform can easily be upgraded to include the latest technology innovations such as license plate reading, behavioral analysis software, video analytics and facial recognition software, which will all continue to bring down crime rates and boost response times to incidents. The right cloud approach Making the shift to cloud-based systems enables smart cities to eliminate dependence on fiber-optic connectivity and take advantage of a variety of Internet and wireless connectivity options that can significantly reduce application and communication infrastructure costs. Smart cities need to be effective in years to come, not just in the present day, or else officials have missed one of the key aspects of a truly smart city. System designers must build technology foundations now that can be easily adapted in the future to support new infrastructure as it becomes available. Open system architecture An open system architecture will also be vital for smart cities to enhance their operations For example, this could include opting for a true cloud application that can support cloud-managed local devices and automate their management. An open system architecture will also be vital for smart cities to enhance their operations and deliver additional value-add services to citizens as greater capabilities become possible in the years to come. The advances today in cloud and IoT technologies are rapid, and city officials and authorities have more options now to develop their smart cities than ever before and crucially, to use these innovations to improve public safety. New safety features Though implementing these cloud-based systems now requires investment, as new safety features are designed, there will be lower costs and challenges associated with introducing these because the basic infrastructure will already exist. Whether that’s gunshot detection or enabling the sharing of video infrastructure and data across multiple agencies in real time, smart video surveillance on cloud-based systems can bring a wealth of the new opportunities.

Which new buzzwords reflect the security industry’s trends?
Which new buzzwords reflect the security industry’s trends?

As an industry, we often speak in buzzwords. In addition to being catchy and easy to remember, these new and trendy industry terms can also reflect the state of the security market’s technology. In short, the latest buzzwords provide a kind of shorthand description of where the industry is - and where it’s going. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What new buzzword(s) rose to prominence in the security industry in 2020? (And how do they reflect industry trends?)

Biometrics Provides Industries With Security, Access Control And Data Protection
Biometrics Provides Industries With Security, Access Control And Data Protection

Several major players vigorously employ biometric recognition technologies around the globe. Governments use biometrics to control immigration, security, and create national databases of biometric profiles. Being one of the most striking examples, the Indian Aadhaar includes face photos, iris, and fingerprints of about 1.2 billion people. Financial institutions, on their part, make use of biometrics to protect transactions by confirming a client's identity, as well as develop and provide services without clients visiting the office. Besides, biometric technology ensures security and optimizes passenger traffic at transport facilities and collects data about customers, and investigates theft and other incidents in retail stores. Widespread use of biometrics Business, which suddenly boosted the development of biometrics, is an active user of biometric technology Business, which suddenly boosted the development of biometrics, is another active user of biometric technology. Industries choose biometric systems, as these systems are impossible to trick in terms of security, access control, and data protection. Being in demand in business, these three tasks are also relevant for the industry. However, the use of biometrics at industrial sites is discussed unfairly seldom. Therefore, it is the face identification that is the most convenient there, as workers often use gloves, or their hands may be contaminated, and the palm pattern is distorted by heavy labor. All these features make it difficult to recognize people by fingerprints or veins and significantly reduce identification reliability. Therefore, industries seek facial recognition solutions. Thus, let us demonstrate the application of face recognition technology at different enterprises, regardless of the area. Facial recognition use in incident management Facial biometric products are known to automate and improve the efficiency of security services by enriching any VMS system. These systems provide an opportunity of instantly informing the operator about recognized or unrecognized people, and their list membership, as well as save all the detected images for further security incident investigation. Furthermore, some sophisticated facial biometric systems even provide an opportunity to build a map of the movements of specific people around a site. Besides, it is relevant not only for conducting investigations but also in countering the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Identifying and tracking COVID-19 positive cases Therefore, if an employee or visitor with a positive COVID-19 test enters a facility, the system will help to track his/her movement and identify his/her specific location. It will also help to take the necessary measures for spot sanitary processing. Thus, the introduction of biometric facial recognition at the industrial enterprise can improve and speed up the incidents’ response and investigations without spending hours watching the video archive. Access control system to secure physical assets The right access control system can help industries secure physical and informational assets The right access control system can help industries secure physical and informational assets, cut personnel costs, and keep employees safe. Facial recognition systems may enrich access control systems of any company by providing more security. As biometric characteristics, by which the system assesses the compliance of a person with the available profiles in the database, cannot be faked or passed. The human factor is also reduced to zero, due to the fact that while identity documents can be changed, the inspector can make a mistake or treat his/her task carelessly, be in collusion with an intruder, the biometric system simply compares a person in front of the camera with the biometric profiles database. Biometric facial identification software For example, RecFaces product Id-Gate, a specialized software product for reliable access control to the site, checks the access rights by using biometric facial identification alone or in conjunction with traditional IDs (electronic passes, access keys, etc.), which means that there is almost a zero probability of passing to the site by someone else's ID. The access control system’s functionality allows one to strictly account the number and time of all the facility’s visitors and also track their movement. When unauthorized access is attempted or a person from the stop list is detected, Id-Gate sends an automatic notification to the access control system and operator. Enhanced data and information security Even despite the division of access to different industrial enterprise areas, the security service needs to provide independent information system security. Employees with the same facility access rights may have different access rights to data. However, in that case, a personal password is not enough, as an employee may forget it, write it down and leave it as a reminder, tell a colleague to do something for him/her during the vacation, or just enter it at another person’s presence. Password-free biometric authentication systems make the procedure user-friendly and secure Password-free biometric authentication Password-free biometric authentication systems make the procedure user-friendly and secure. Such systems usually provide an option of two-step verification when successful password entry is additionally confirmed by biometric recognition. Hence, it is particularly relevant due to the current lockdown in many countries. To sum up, the application of biometric technologies solves several issues of the industry, such as: Optimizes and partially automates the work of the security service, as it provides reliable identification and verification of visitors/employees, reduces the amount of time spent on finding a person on video and making a map of his/her movements, without spending hours on watching video archive in case of investigation. Provides a high level of reliability and protection from unauthorized access to the enterprise and the information system. Provides a two-step verification of the user/visitor (including password and biometric data) and almost eliminates the risk of substitution of user data/ID.