The question of how to prepare an organization to prevent a potential act of workplace violence can be overwhelming for any HR or security professional and the knowing where to begin can certainly be daunting. As a starting point, we often recommend that our clients obtain a copy of the American National Standard, Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention, co-published by the American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
The American National Standard emphasizes the role of prevention in creating and maintaining a safe workplace and specifically looks at the role of policy, procedures, resources and safety protocols as being integral to preventing and responding to a workplace violence event. In fact, the American National Standard is considered the “gold standard” in terms of defining both the problem and scope of workplace violence, as well as outlining practical steps that organizations can take to address threats of violence and violent acts in the workplace. This publication is available from ASIS
As you begin to develop your workplace violence prevention program, it is important to assess what your organization has in place, and what will need to be developed. Here are some questions to get you started:
- Does your executive management support a comprehensive workplace violence prevention program? Is there “buy in” that would result in support and the creation of a violence-free culture?
- Does your organization have a Workplace Violence Prevention Policy? If so, when was it last updated?
- Does your organization provide Workplace Violence Prevention training for supervisors, managers and employees? Does this training highlight your updated Workplace Violence Prevention Policy? How often do you offer this training?
- Do you have designated individuals (i.e. HR, Security, Legal) within your organization who are trained to conduct threat assessments and to safely intervene in threatening behaviors?
- Has your organization recently conducted Site Security Surveys, an array of violence vulnerability assessment tools that identify exposure to potential “negligent security” liability, and criminal and violent acts?
- Have you identified and vetted outside resources that may be needed in the event of a threat of violence or critical incident? (i.e. threat assessment professional, contract security, EAP).
Of course, once you understand what you need, it’s much easier to identify where you need to go. We recommend starting with established support from your C-level executives, and a sound workplace violence prevention policy that meets the criteria set out by the American National Standard, vetted by your employment attorney or general counsel.
The rollout of an updated policy should be followed by training for executives, managers, and when that is completed, employees. Workplace Violence Prevention training is very important - we know from years of experience the importance of identifying issues and problems when they are small and conducting early interventions. Educating your workforce to recognize warning signs for violence at the earliest stages can be a critical part of preventing workplace violence.
Finally, begin to establish a list of resources that you can call upon in the event of a threat or violent incident. No one wants to scramble for a provider in the middle of a crisis – be sure to identify your resources ahead of time.
So perhaps not so overwhelming, right? Establishing a sound workplace violence prevention program is a step by step process toward preparing for and preventing acts of violence which will increase the safety of your business environment. More importantly, this will also send the message to your employees that their security and well-being are important to your leadership team and that threats of violence and violent acts will not be tolerated as a part of your organizational culture.
As you prepare to prevent a workplace violence incident from occurring in your organization, take a look at a useful tool we created called, "3 Modules of a Workplace Violence Prevention Enterprise-wide Program". This graphic can help you start by organizing your process into 3 modules. Click the blue bar to download the graphic "3 Modules of a Workplace Violence Prevention Enterprise-wide Program".
*This blog was updated on 09/04/18 to reflect changes in the accessibility of the American Standard. See link for access to this publication.