Putting the Threat of Workplace Violence In Perspective…

Written By: Felix P. Nater

The Security Consultant’s Perspective…

Putting the threat of violence and security in the workplace
following September 11, 2001 in perspective has a broader meaning
and greater appreciation. The price of Workplace Violence has a physical,
emotional and financial toll on the victims, witnesses and the
businesses. While worst-case scenarios are not the norm,
incidents of assaults, homicides, threats and acts of sabotage
are real in the typical workplace. However, the simple but
equally annoying and escalating hostile conduct creates emotional
contagions and spontaneous responses. When thinking of workplace
violence one should consider situations and events of any type
that if left uncorrected could escalate into a violent response.
Service employees being harassed on their routes, nurses fearful
of conducting home visits, plant employees taunting another, use
of increased resources to protect threatened employees and
salesmen who resign rather than do business in certain
neighborhoods are all realities at work. Even though reported
incidents of violence are down for 2003 according to the Bureau
of Labor Statistics security awareness should continue to remain
high on the prevention category.

Some Statistics About Workplace Violence…

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 11% (631) of
the 5,559 fatal occupational injuries in 2003 resulted in
homicide (mostly by shootings). A March 2004, FBI Report
estimated that nearly 80% of these workplace homicides are
committed by criminals with no other connection to the
workplace, who have committed robberies or other violent crimes.
In the areas of Non-fatal occupational injuries, BLS reported
that 18,104 such incidents in 2002 resulted from assaults and
violent acts by person, representing nearly 1.3% of the 1.4
million reported occupational injuries and illnesses. According
to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, (BJS) US Department of
Justice, in 2002 nearly 750,000 crimes of violence were
committed each year against people at work or on duty and
another 170,000 against people traveling to and from work.

In January 2004, the Society of Human Resource Managers reported
the results of their own internal survey on workplace violence.
Roughly, almost two-thirds of HR Professionals who responded
reported that at least one incident of ‘violence” had occurred
since 200o. Most common were incidents of inappropriate language,
verbal abuse or verbal threats.

In May 2004, the American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE)
survey on workplace violence reported that 44% of 750
respondents had indicated that their place of work had been
victim to incidents of violence since 1998. While threats do not
harm victims, the mere utterance damages perceptions of
management’s ability to provide for a safe workplace if no
corrective action is taken.

The risk of violence comes in a variety of different forms.
Following September 11, 2001 threats escalated to the use of
potentially harmful chemical and biological agents, directed
targets of violence, bomb threats and an increase in threats
against businesses. The ASSE survey also revealed that 74% of the
750 respondents had not under-gone any formal risk assessment or
management of the potential for violence in the workplace. To
keep it simple and for a later discussion, if you work in an
electrical or gas plant you should know the risks.

What Others Are Saying About Workplace Security…

The landscape of workplace security has changed following
September 11, 2001 and the subsequent threats. Once relegated to
the back room of IT and facility management departments,
corporate security issues have risen to such prominence over the
past three years that security concerns now have truly become
corporate concerns. Robert Hahn, VP, Strategy & Secure Mail for
Pitney Bowes Management Services, asks, “how does one calculate
the loss to a company if an office building is shut down for two
to three days due to a false alarm?”. For example, to clean
buildings like in the case of the two Anthrax infected Post
Offices on the east coast required $150 million dollars and 30
months-time during which the facilities were shut down to all but
the clean up crews and law enforcement, said, Robert Hahn. The
threat is real along with a host of other potential threats;
Terrorist demands, Business discontinuance, Theft of sensitive
data and intellectual property, malicious computer viruses and
intranet attacks, Key personnel taken hostage, Travel security
concerns and Sabotage by disgruntled employee.

In a July 2004 on-line survey conducted by Pitney Bowes, they
asked the participants to define what the term “security” meant
to them. 89% of the 409 respondents viewed security in broad
based terms: protecting company information, protecting business
systems and competitive intelligence. Between 65 – 71% viewed
security as issues of physical and people security and privacy of
employee information. Only 31% believed that their security was
connected to neighboring facilities, roads or telecommunication
systems. The responses in this particular survey correspond to
the ASSE Survey wherein 44% or 335 of the 750 respondents said
they had established or changed emergency response procedures. I can not reflecting on my age old adage that “Security is everyone’s business and that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound in cure”.

About the Author

Felix P. Nater is the President of Nater Associates, Ltd. a security management consulting practice specializing in Workplace Violence Prevention, Workplace Security and Security Awareness.

Previous post:

Next post: