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This guest blog contributed by strategic partner and workplace violence and security consultant, Felix Nater of Nater Associates, LTD with offices in North Carolina and New York.
New OSHA Directive Tackles Workplace Violence Concerns…What Are You Doing About It?
In the last 15 years, deaths resulting from workplace violence have ranked among the top four causes of occupational fatalities in American workplaces. In response to this serious threat to worker safety, OSHA released a new compliance directive on Sept. 8. 2010 that offers procedures for agency staff who respond to workplace violence cases or complaints. Caution is always recommended in assuming that compliance is prevention. If you don’t educate compliance merely becomes another checklist.
While incidents of Workplace Homicides are down, incidents of non violent acts have increased. Workplaces should not only look at the homicidal reasons for why employee might “go postal’ but for contributing factors and the unintentional consequences of workplace policies and the unknown risks of such overlooked threats committed by non violent employees (harassment, sabotage to systems and operations, product contamination, theft of sensitive information, compromise of proprietary information, theft of services, identity theft, work slow down etc., etc.,).
Recent acts of defiance by non violent people are your employees. Such behavior gives rise for concern in our workplaces from groups who might resort to non violent act of retaliation as described above. Do not make the assumption that just because the defiance is focused on the financial community or away from the workplace that, the frustrations of victimization at large can’t find their way into the workplaces. When it comes to justification and rationale, I have seen the gamut in terms of the behavior and reasoning.
Workplace Violence Prevention Policies and Plans can better serve the workplace in identifying potential contributing factors and at risk situations through collaboration and integration of resources. Violent prone employees become so by their workplace, environmental and societal experiences or perhaps even changes in their mental well being. The lead-in to acts of homicidal vengeance is a methodical choice that, I think is based on their brand of rationale and justification. Exploiting workplaces by the non violent employee doesn’t involve decisions of life and death but ones of retribution and retaliation against organizations that have the financial capability to withstand the threat. The non violent threat can become more destructive if the rationale is tied to the businesses capability to withstand the risks.
Take the implementation of Workplace Violence Prevention and Security Awareness seriously. Begin the process by conducting thoughtful workplace risk assessments. The assessment should include security and business practices alike. Include employees in the process by utilizing surveys that attempt to uncover signs of disgruntled behavior or conditions exacerbated by supervision and management business practices. Reduce existing security gaps in your current operations. Institute countermeasures that provide as early warning signals of problems on the rise. Support employee victims and complaints who come forward. Aggressive monitor and respond to employee hotline or complaint lines. Create an impression that the leadership cares,
Don’t assume that non violent acts of workplace violence will not rise to a level of concern because you will find yourself asking why you didn’t take preemptive measures early on. Know that this threat’s capability is unknown but devastating in terms of impact on many; including the organization’s production, perform standing and reputation along the way.
Take the following 10 steps NOW to minimize your risks and identify contributory practices and procedures:
- Be proactive.
- Implement credible reporting systems.
- Educate supervisors and managers on recognizing at risk situations.
- Conduct a thorough workplace violence risk assessment.
- Review existing security management and emergency preparedness measures.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of your emergency evacuation plans.
- Train your workforce on the consequences of violent and non-violent acts.
- Hold all employees accountable and responsible for engaging in or failing to report at risk situations.
- Conduct annual facility and employee assessments.
- Include workplace violence prevention in your New Employee Orientations.
I had the opportunity to read Stop Signs authored by my friend Lynn Fairweather who is a threat assessment and domestic violence expert. As a personal safety trainer and consultant and father of two daughters, I was particularly eager to read this book and share the “golden nuggets” with them and those I interact with on a professional level.
I found this book to be well balanced. While I have read several books on domestic violence, I have never seen one as comprehensive as Stop Signs. The book is segmented into three equal parts devoted to recognizing, avoiding, and escaping dating / domestic abuse and violence. It therefore applies to all women: those who have never been abused, those who are currently being abused, and those that have left an abuser.
This book serves as a resource, a safety plan, and offers self-help empowerment all in one. It is an intuitive read and also gives voice to survivors in dialog boxes that are strategically placed to drive home the teachable moments. This style is in keeping with Lynn’s “lived experience” as she too is a survivor of domestic violence and is therefore able to bring a personal as well as a professional perspective to the topic.
Who should read this book and keep it on the shelf as a domestic violence resource? Anyone from a mother with young daughters, to someone in an abusive relationship all the way over to a threat assessment / security professional or HR personal in the corporate sector.
The book is available at Amazon.
Lynn is the founder and president of Presage Consulting & Training, an Oregon based organization specializing in fatality reduction through threat assessment and management.
Lynn’s contact details appear below.
Lynn Fairweather, M.S.W.
Presage Consulting and Training
Child Grooming. Recognizing this behavior for what it is!!
Guest blog entry courtesy of Kim Estes. Kim is a child safety expert and the founder of Savvy Parents Safe Kids. Kim believes that every child deserves a safe childhood and that adults have the power to keep children safe.
The past week has been a firestorm surrounding the Penn State Child Sexual Abuse scandal. We have by now figured out what when wrong. We know horrible mistakes were made. We know horrific crimes were committed.
Walking in on a child being raped is obviously Child Sexual Abuse in progress. However, it didn’t start “just like that”. Sandusky had a process that he followed to gain access to that child. So how exactly do predators get to the point where they have complete access to a child and complete immunity within a community?
The answer is simple. It is called grooming.
We hear about grooming of children, but before that can happen, a predator must groom the adults. Grooming adults clears the way to victimizing children. If we want to stop children from becoming victims, we need to be able to identify when adults are being tricked and groomed and what the predators grooming steps are.
Steps and Signs of Child Grooming:
Identifies opportunities, organizations and communities with children
Builds trust through friendships and/or leadership (with the adults and children)
Begins to identify potential victims
Gains access to children
Begins testing boundaries (with children and adults)
Provides presents, praise and privileges (to both the adults and the children)
Uses threats (towards children and sometimes adults) to keep their crimes secret
Adults are responsible for keeping the children in our lives safe. If you observe what you believe is child grooming in progress it is your duty to intervene. Talk to a supervisor, talk to your partner, talk to the police, talk to a specialist in Child Sexual Abuse prevention. Limit that person’s access to children immediately. Predators like to fly under the radar. If you start making noise and asking questions you will make it harder for them to be stealth in committing their crimes against children.
Visit Kim’s website at www.savvyparentssafekids.com
Think back to the documentary on television where the lioness is hunting. She stalks a herd of deer as they approach a water hole. She waits in the same place because she knows that the deer, being highly predictable, will come by at the same time every day. They must do so to drink.
As she moves in, she stays well hidden and singles out her target; usually the very young or very old, the sick member of the herd or the animal least aware of its surroundings! They are easy or “soft targets”. The inattentive animal doesn’t look up from grazing and hardly scans its surroundings. This is the animal that is also not listening and clearly does not know what is going on behind it. The lioness is much attuned to the body language of the inattentive. So are human predators!
If she is not hunting under her preferred cover of darkness, she will try to have the sun behind her so the herd is blinded making her even more difficult to see. She moves in as close as she can and then launchers her attack from behind, her victim’s blind spot. If possible she will run her prey toward a terrain feature such as a steep embankment to be sure she channels it in the direction of her choosing. By the time her victim realizes what is going on its too late and the attack is complete.
If her intended prey starts to pay more attention to its surroundings and moves back into the middle of the herd where it will find safety in numbers, the lioness will wait, pass over what has now become a “hard target” and look again for an easy mark. This is called the victim selection process and is not unlike the process human predators go through. Victims are chosen, the process is not random and the attack plan well thought out.
Human predators operate in much the same way. Their ideal target too exhibits the three elements that make them “a victim looking for a place to happen”; lack of awareness of surroundings, predictability of schedule, and placing themselves alone in an isolated environment.
Some Tips and Safety Strategies to Consider now that it is Getting Darker Earlier
- If you run with one or two buddies, you are safer and have made those isolated areas less of a threat. This is even more important in early morning and evening low light hours.
- If you walk or run on different trails on different days at slightly different times with you buddy team you have exponentially hardened your target profile. Remember, predictability is one of your enemies.
- Hearing is your parallel primary protective special sense. It’s on par with vision, so leave the head phones at home. People who have had close calls often tell us they heard someone coming up behind them before they saw them, giving them time to react.
- If you must run alone, choose busier well light streets and run FACING traffic, making it difficult for a vehicle to pull along side. Also let someone know your route and the time you expect to return.
- Always know where your “safe havens” are located. This could be a busy coffee shop or retail area, a well light parking lot or even a knowing at which homes along the route people are home.
- Always bring your cell phone with you and be sure to keep track of any areas where there is weak or no signal. Place it in a small Ziploc bag if you are worried about moisture.
- If you carry pepper spray, carry it in your hand with a wrap band. It will only be of help to you if you can bring it to bear and discharge in an instant. Buy fogger sprayers NOT stream dispensers!
- One of the best “things” you can bring on a run or walk is a dog. Regardless of size, they are good early warning systems and are just another layer of complications for a would be assailant.
- If it’s cold wear earmuffs, NOT a hoodie which robs you of peripheral vision. Hoodies can also be grabbed and used as a “handle” by which to control you.
- Remember that the most important area to be aware of is the blind spot behind you. The place ambush or blitz attacks are launched from.
- Carrying a small personal alarm is preferred by some as is a small very high intensity flashlight that can temporarily blind an assailant and illuminate those dark areas that offer great hiding places. These items can be easily clipped onto your waistband which is where your cell phone should be too.
Social Media and your Personal Safety
- Do not plan runs or announce rendezvous points to your exercise buddies via any social media or networking platform
- If you want to post about a pleasant exercise outing, do so after the fact and keep the details, especially the route and location very vague.
The Danger of Complacency
At this very moment and as you read this would be criminals or predators are not your primary enemy. Complacency is. Do not fall into a false sense of security telling yourself “We live in a good area” or “Nothing bad ever happens here”. Anything can happen anywhere. Don’t take chances. Implement your strategy and engage it with discipline. Be smart. Be safe and stay healthy!!
Having a lone worker safety and communications plan outline in place is critical for any agency that has staff in the field. This includes those that work from home part or full time.
Your office based employees may have the benefit of a secure facility. Your lone workers face a completely different set of personal safety and security issue.
I’ve invited Kevin Dogen, Executive Director of SafeTeam, a technology leader in this space, to a write a guest Blog that illustrates the importance of including an Emergency Notification System in any Safety and Communications plan you devise.
A lone worker in the field (we’ll call him Jim) is confronted with a situation that compromises his safety. He’s in a difficult spot and doesn’t have time to call for help. Since his company’s safety procedures are based on human communication, his supervisors have no idea he’s in trouble and won’t for some time… while Jim’s need for help is immediate.
With an Emergency Notification System in place to alert Jim’s supervisors, his lone worker safety scenario is quite different:
It starts at 9:00 AM with Jim “Checking In” to the system via cell phone upon arrival at his destination. It’s a 2 hour visit. The system prompts him to provide details on where he is, what client he’s visiting, and the color and make of his vehicle. Once completed, it stands by for him to call no later than 11:00 AM to “Check-Out”.
When 11:00 AM comes and he hasn’t “Checked-out”, the system calls his cell phone but he doesn’t pick up. The system waits 5 minutes and calls again. Again he doesn’t answer. This raises a potential red flag where the system triggers as escalation procedure by contacting 3 designated contacts.
They’re able to listen to Jim’s Check-In call so they know his location. One of the designated contacts places a call to the client. They don’t answer. He next calls the police, providing the address. In an instant, the response time has been dramatically reduced in what might be a serious situation.
While the odds of this happening are slim, you need only do a quick Google search to see how often it does occur. The question then is whether to presume that it won’t happen to your people or be pro-actively cautious by including an ENS into your Safety and Communication Plans.
In some ways, it’s like an insurance policy and without it, not only are your employees exposed, your company is as well, based on the financial implications that come into play. The National Center for Victims of Crime notes that the average cost for a single episode of violence in the workplace is $250,000 in lost time, medical expenses & legal costs.
Having an ENS in place not only reduces your company’s legal exposure, it also sends a strong message to your field workers that their safety is your primary concern.
In the end it’s a numbers game. You can consider that because you’ve never had an incident in the field, the probability is too small to be concerned. On the flipside, you might count your blessings, recognize that the risk is ever-present and take your Safety and Communication Plans to the next level.
To see Safe Team’s Emergency Notification System in action click here
Kevin’s Contact information appears below
Social Worker Personal Safety Training (6 Hours NASW Continuing Education Units)