Putting Workplace Violence In Perspective Following September 11, 2001…

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 and Security Awareness Issues.

Previous post:

Next post: