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News > Correct Environment to Prevent “On-the-Job Time Bomb”
Editorial: Employers Must Create the Correct Environment to Prevent
“On-the-Job Time Bomb”
Management Often Out of Loop with Realities of Work Environment and
Indianapolis, Indiana (Jan. 29, 2007) - On January 22, 2007,
The Indianapolis Star published an article titled “On-the-Job Time Bomb”
that dealt with the topic of violence in the workplace.
The article was
written, at least in part, as a result of the recent workplace shootings
of four employees by a co-worker that occurred at a facility on the
east side of Indianapolis.
The article was made some excellent points concerning the prevention of
workplace violence and it pointed out several “warning signs”
employers should be aware of and alert for to detect if an employee may
be a threat to himself or others.
In addition, the article mentioned
several strategies to deter workplace violence, such as having policies
and prevention measures in place to prevent violent episodes from
article did not address, in a meaningful manner, one of the most
consequential aspects of preventing workplace violence from becoming a
As an investigator with more than 25 years experience
in responding to violent workplace events and designing loss prevention
programs to reduce the likelihood of such situations, it has been
demonstrated repeatedly that management is often “out of the loop” when
it comes to a full understanding of the realities of their employee’s
work environment. As long as this situation continues to exist, future
violent acts in the workplace will continue to alarm and sadden us all.
from the “Time Bomb” article support this unfortunate and dangerous
reality. The author writes that the “incident sent a shock wave through
local offices” in the Indianapolis area. She continues by indicating
that “employers began flipping through company handbooks” to be “sure
they had policies and precautionary measures in place to prevent similar
incidents at their companies”. There-in lies the true issue and real
opportunity to cause a safer work environment for all.
Allow me to
explain. Unfortunately, an employer (and all levels of the management
and supervisory staff) who doesn’t know if their company has pro-active
measures in place, cannot have them in place by the very definition of
what a truly pro-active program entails. It is the equivalent of
claiming to be a safe driver and then checking to see if your seat-belt
A truly pro-active
workplace violence prevention program entails training and educating
employees and management alike on warning signs for violent behavior, as
the article points out. In addition, companies need to develop avenues
for communication of pertinent information and importantly, that
information must be channeled and responded to in a timely and
appropriate manner, also points addressed in the article.
But those are
not easy or simple processes to ingrain in a work-force, and reading a
handbook about it is no substitute for actually doing it. Again,
referring to the article, the company where this recent violent outbreak
occurred “had a written policy banning firearms at work, verbal abuse of
co-workers and violence”. Clearly the written policy did not suffice in
this situation. So, what went wrong?
Prevention Consulting assists employers who are faced with the necessary
task of designing and implementing measures to prevent workplace
violence. It is critical to educate and train the managers, supervisors
and employees by structuring the training in ways that place each
distinct group in real-work scenarios.
Role playing is extremely
beneficial for this aspect of employee training because it causes the
Witness a potential threat situation
Think critically about what they observed
Make decisions about their appropriate response
Actually communicate the information to other parties as the prevention program requires
There is no substitute for actual experience.
In addition to
employee orientation and training, supervisor training and awareness of
their important role in responding to their own observations or those
reported by their subordinates is vital for any program to be
successful. Far too often, investigations conducted after the fact
reveal that information known to supervisors and/or mid-level managers
that should have been acted on or referred for action simply wasn’t.
Again the question is raised – why didn’t someone intervene? In most of
these scenarios the answer is some combination of:
The supervisor wasn’t fully aware of his (or her) job responsibilities
He (or she) didn’t feel the information they possessed warranted action
They were apprehensive about how their involvement might impact them, or
They didn’t feel compelled to act based on another work-related experience they had been through.
In many cases the supervisor simply chooses the most expedient response, regardless of the situation. Upper-level managers
who become aware of potentially violent situations must be trained to
determine if the situation presents an acute risk of physical harm
(requiring quick, specific response action) or if it should be treated
as a threatening situation (requiring a non-emergency response).
Untrained, inexperienced or over-zealous managers have unwittingly
escalated workplace issues which resulted in a violent altercation when
a professional intervention would have been the more appropriate
sincerely interested in meeting these difficult and all-to-real
challenges will implement a Loss Prevention Program with appropriate
training (including recurrent training) for all employees, supervisors
The training should include role playing opportunities
in real-work scenarios. Supervisor’s and manager’s training should be
focused on their specific responsibilities, including an awareness of
warning signs to look for, and promoting open communication between the
employees and themselves.
Additionally, management must understand
their critical role in assessing potentially violent outbursts and learn
to respond to situations they encounter in the most safe, appropriate
manner to avoid unnecessarily escalating an otherwise controlled
realize that successful workplace violence prevention programs do not
exist only on paper or in theory. Awareness, deterrence, observation
skills, decision making capabilities, timely communication and proper
response techniques are all by-products of a healthy work environment
that is caused, not accidentally occurring.
Summit Loss Prevention Consulting
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