A growing safety concern for low-risk workplaces is active threat incidents, which are immediate violent actions or threats that fall under the broader category of workplace violence. Workplace violence and active threat incidents are on the rise for low-risk workplaces and can affect almost any business. Businesses that do not proactively manage risks around workplace violence can face serious consequences: from brand distrust and impact on leadership, to harm to employees and even loss of life. While it can be difficult to prepare for and communicate this sensitive issue, employers have an obligation to empower their employees, determine prevention strategies, and plan their responses to these difficult crises.

To better understand the landscape of active threat preparedness, we asked attendees at our last EHSxTech meeting about their prevention and planning. We found that while most tech companies had training and drills for active threat scenarios, only one-third of them had other preventative measures in place. In this piece, we dive into measures any company can take to start integrating active threat preparedness and prevention into their company culture.

Understanding the Risks and Rewards

Precursors to workplace violence can come in many forms: from situations that might seem like non-issues, like drinking alcohol at a work event, to conflicts that are clearly a problem, like domestic violence or bullying. Low-risk offices and retail spaces need to be watchful of the following situations and triggers that can be indicators of future workplace violence or active threats:

  • Domestic violence
  • Disgruntled employee (especially those that are terminated)
  • Worker conflict
  • Stalking
  • Road rage
  • Workplace stress
  • Bullying, harassment, or threats
  • Mental health issues
  • Drinking situations and drunkenness at work
  • Safety culture issues
  • Employees who screen for graphic content

There is another category of workplace violence that is important to watch out for and incorporate into Workplace Violence Prevention Plans and Emergency Response Plans: random violence. Random violence is any occurrence of unstable people (whether they work at the company or not) randomly choosing to attack a workplace. To address random violence, organizations need to ensure there are safety protocols in place to allow employees to restrict access to their facility.

Recent active threat situations have garnered extreme amounts of media attention and sparked concerns around workplace health and safety and preparedness. As technology, social media, and public access to low-risk spaces grows, understanding the risks and taking steps to address them is no longer a low priority.

Supporting employees through workplace violence planning, training for prevention and response, and on-going assessment are the keys to creating safe workplaces. These steps help employees to feel the organization cares about their health and wellbeing. Another bonus? Taking steps to support employees also helps establish a transparent and open safety culture that encourages employees to share their questions, challenges, and feedback on workplace violence.

Following California’s Lead

On the forefront of workplace violence prevention is California OSHA (Cal/OSHA), the first agency to start laying the groundwork for proactive Workplace Violence Prevention Plan legislation. The regulation, currently in draft form, lays out methods for assessing workplace violence risks, creating a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan, and holding trainings for all employees.

Our guidance for companies looking to create a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan, based on the emerging Cal/OSHA regulation, is as follows:

  • Employers should establish, implement, and maintain an effective Workplace Violence Prevention Plan, which should be in writing and available to all employees at all times.
  • A Workplace Violence Prevention Plan must include:
    • Names of the people responsible for implementing the plan
    • Procedures to get employees actively involved in developing and implementing the plan
    • Employers in the same building or facility can coordinate with one another to implement their Plans, when applicable
    • Procedures to communicate with employees regarding workplace violence incidents
    • Procedures to develop and provide training

For more information on plans and training, view the full draft rules for Workplace Violence Prevention in General Industry.

Another key component is considering active threat risks during the development of your Emergency Response Plan—ensuring employees know what to do and where to go is critical. Your Emergency Response Plan should define the concept of “Run, Hide, Fight,” discuss options for where to safely shelter-in-place, provide potential alternate muster points, as well as specify how you will account for employees during an emergency.

A Culture Shift for Safety

Shifting a company culture to be open and effective at dealing with workplace violence is the next frontier for companies looking to reduce the likelihood of these events.

To address stress, conflicts, and mental health at work, many organizations have come up with creative solutions that encourage transparency and communication among their employees and leadership. These solutions include on-going communications and marketing efforts around stress management, encouraging a safe mentality toward drinking, and offering mental health “first aid’ awareness training for all employees. Creating effective methods that truly change a culture for the better can be challenging, but when paired with a strong Workplace Violence Prevention Plan and Emergency Response Plan, they can make all the difference.

If you need some additional help, Antea Group is here to provide active threat support, including reviewing and revising response and prevention plans, aiding in communication, and holding onsite training and drills in the United States and around the world. We want to help you create a true culture of safety, not just a temporary awareness for workplace violence, and we do this by working to determine the best solution for your environment, carefully crafted for this sensitive topic.

Contact us today for workplace violence prevention support.

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