We’ve been seeing an increase in violence throughout the United States over the last decade. These acts of violence are happening everywhere. We’ve seen these incidents in schools, places of worship, and places of work. These are all places we go expecting to be safe from harm or injury. If there is an emergency, we expect to be notified along with what procedures we should take to stay out of harm’s way. Unfortunately, occurrences of workplace violence are increasing. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), each year there are 2 million reports of workers having been a victim of workplace violence. That’s excluding those who didn’t report their incident occurring.
OSHA defines workplace violence as violence or the threat of violence against workers. It can occur at or outside the workplace and can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide. However it manifests itself, workplace violence is a growing concern for employers and employees nationwide. It’s the third highest leading cause of death in occupational injuries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in 2014 there were 403 people fatally injured in workplace-related homicides.
Almost every week we experience an active shooter incident that started as a domestic confrontation which led to killings in the workplace. Some places of work still don’t have policies related to violence in the workplace or how to handle domestic violence that spills into the workplace. Employees spend between one-fifth and one-third of their lives at work. A survey done by the Family Violence Prevention Fund found that 74% of domestic violence victims face harassment from their partners while they’re at work. Having these policies in place helps employees understand that their employer will do what they can to protect employees while at work.
Although no place of work is immune to violence, and we never know when or if someone is going to act, there are certain groups of people at higher risk. OSHA states those who work late night hours or early morning hours are at a higher risk of violence.
Although we’ll never know when or how workplace violence might occur, you must have a plan in place to keep your people safe. Workplaces come in all different shapes and sizes. Some take up an entire campus and many span miles of outdoor fields. You must prepare an emergency response and action plan before an emergency event occurs. The Critical Communications Cycle (CCC) is a guideline for you to develop, test, and evolve your organization’s emergency response and action plan. This helps you understand how your organization should plan and respond to different emergency scenarios that may occur in the workplace. It isn’t enough to just prepare for what to do during the event; you must plan for the before and the after, as well.
BEFORE - Prepare
Proper planning and preparation before a workplace incident occur ensures a concise response that helps manage the adrenaline and stress that inevitably accompanies an emergency of violence in the workplace.
- The Before stage is when you organize your Crisis Communications Team (CCT) and define your action plan and procedures for each unique emergency situation - including workplace violence. Doing so enhances your chances of minimizing minutes, and lives lost to lack of preparation.
- After you’ve established and defined each piece of your emergency response and action plan and have integrated each scenario into your emergency notification system, you should have drills, with both your organization and your CCT, to exercise what to do if a real workplace violence emergency would occur.
DURING - Notify
When an emergency strikes, emotions are high and you may not remember each step of your plan for that specific scenario. Without having proper preparations in place ahead of time, risk increases and you are exposed to a possible decreased success rate in regards to proper emergency response to any type of workplace violence.
- During the first minute of any emergency, you should have your emergency response and action plan actionable to notify, mobilize, and collaborate based upon the current situation. In the case of violence in a workplace, and as an example, if there’s an incident in the middle of two buildings, you may need to inform the people in the different buildings to use specific exits to avoid the incident.
- You also need to mobilize your resources. A best practice is creating an MOU with your local authorities and first responders. Including them in the notification to your emergency response team saves your organization time assigning someone to call 911.
- Last is collaborating with your CCT by including the link to a telephone or web conference in your notifications. Set this up ahead of time. As the situation unfolds, monitor feedback from the community using social media and inbound messages.
AFTER - Report & Improve
Once the workplace violence emergency has concluded, it's time for debriefings and getting things back in working order. When the incident has been resolved, there will be data and practical experiences that can be reviewed to improve the communications plan and response in the future.
- Reviewing what happened from beginning to end of the emergency, including what communications were sent to what groups and how many were received, is an imperative part of the Critical Communications Cycle. Having this, along with the analysis of how the communications and procedures flowed during the event is important to determine what worked well and what can be improved. Gather your Crisis Communications Team and go over all the information from the event.
- From there, you should continue to run frequent tests to ensure the future success of your organization.
There are so many different types of plans in place throughout different departments of an organization, so why not have a plan for the safety of your organization and your people. There can no longer be assumptions that your organization is immune from danger. Employers must think of the legal and moral obligations that accompany having employees.
As the National Safety Council suggests, “Leadership should set the tone from the top and engage all works in safety, continually looking to identify and mitigate workplace safety hazards and measuring safety performance using leading indicators to ensure continuous improvement.” Workplace violence and domestic violence in the workplace are recognized crises, hazards, and exposures organizations must address. To protect your organization from workplace violence, you must address these recognized hazards within your emergency response and action plan and with your people for what might happen. Use the Critical Communications Cycle ebook to help protect your organization and ensure your staff and visitors know that you have their best interests in mind.