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Workplace Violence Prevention Programs Must Include Mobile Workers


Last week, Steven Crimando, Principal, Behavioral Science Applications, presented a webinar “An Executive Seminar on Workplace Violence Prevention. One of the major themes Crimando hit on was mobile workers. In the past, workplace violence prevention largely related to employees who worked in a traditional office building. However, as a significant portion of the workforce shifts to the mobile world, it is critical that safety and security professionals begin to develop workplace violence prevention programs with mobile workers in mind. According to Crimando, employers have a duty of care for providing a safe work environment for mobile workers as for employees who work on company property.

The Mobile Workforce: A Growing Trend By 2020 mobile workers will account for nearly three-quarters (72.3 percent) of the U.S. workforce, according to a 2016 report from IDC. That said, omitting these employees from a workplace violence prevention program creates a double standard and undermines both the employer’s and employee’s position, Crimando says.

The Definition of a Workplace is Changing As part of the shift toward mobile workers, organizations must change their definition of the workplace. Crimando outlined three key aspects of the “new” definition of a workplace:

  1. Any location, permanent or temporary, where an employee performs a work-related duty
  2. Includes but is not limited to the building & surrounding perimeter (i.e. the parking lot)
  3. Includes field locations, workers’ homes and any location where business work-related functions are conducted

To learn more about workplace violence prevention programs, watch the recording of the webinar, and review the slides. You can also follow along with the transcription below! Webinar Transcript Steven Crimando Very good. [00:02:00] Again, thanks everyone for joining us. I’ll tell you just a little bit about the program going into it. We’re going to keep a pretty quick tempo through the program, covering a lot of different material. I understand in any webinar that we do, that there’s going to be a wide range of experience of folks who join us on the call today, on the webinar, ranging from individuals and organizations that have very little in the way of planning or preparedness for workplace violence or organizations that have just incredibly complex [00:02:30] and well developed violence prevention programs. Regardless of where you kind of fall on that spectrum, I tried to bring together some information that even if you’re pretty experienced at this, you’ll find to be somewhat new and also actionable. Will did my introduction, I’m not going too much further other than just to simple say that I’m coming at the problem of workplace violence from the standpoint of the behavioral scientist, so we’re going to be looking about the behavioral [00:03:00] aspects of it about this issue, how it’s changing and what organizations are kind of doing that are leading the way in violence prevention and response. Now, just as a quick warmup, again, acknowledging that people come to this issue with all different levels of experience on the call today, we understand that workplace violence is sadly a reality in our workplaces, all kinds of workplaces. There’s not a sort of workplaces that’s immune, there’s not a type of geography or part of the country [00:03:30] that is, again, immune to the effects of workplace violence and it obviously [inaudible 00:03:36] violence has a devastating effect on the organization, on its people, and this of course has to do with our safety, with employee morale, with employee retention and recruitment, and certainly with your brand and your corporate reputation as well. We are still, sadly, at a place where we are averaging about two individuals killed each day in workplace violence situations in the US, [00:04:00] that’s for each work day. We’re coming out to about 10, 11, sometimes 12 people per week, just in the US alone killed. When we think about this, workplace violence today is actually the third leading cause of death in the workplace, so if you don’t already have this on your radar, it is a serious problem and it is also a problem in which there is a degree of foreseeability. Now, we’re going to get more executive as we go, we’re going to start speaking more about the leadership concepts [00:04:30] and about executive thinking on this issue as we go, and I’d like just to set some context and set some background with these first few slides and then we’re going to get a lot more sophisticated downstream. OSHA believes that we still experience about two million instances of workplace violence each year. Obviously not all of those are shootings, we have to start making a separation in your mind between workplace violence and gun violence. The vast majority of workplace violence, of course, is not gun violence, but this is really [00:05:00] still a tremendous problem and we know it’s to some degree probably under reported, and you can think of a lot of pressures on employees to not report. Simply the feeling that by going to tell someone, a supervisor about a problem, that the person who may be intimidating them or threatening them may make the situation worse, and maybe a he said/she said situation where there’s really no witnesses to a threat or other behavior being made. We think actually with those numbers being so elevated, that [00:05:30] their still a little but under reported and that’s certainly hard to quantify. When we think about workplace violence, obviously there’s a tremendous number of costs and the costs are some that are hard and measurable in terms of dollars and some that are softer in terms of productivity, and as I said in terms of our brand, but this is an executive issue. This is something that every leader at every level of the organization really does need to understand. My perspective [00:06:00] today is really to speak about your workplace from the standpoint of safety security and defensibility of you decisions around different workplace violence situations, starting with the decision to have or not have plans and procedures to have exercises and things of this nature as well. Going back just a few years, this infographic tells us about some of these staggering dollar figures that we believe are attached and at that time, 2014, we were averaging or looking at an estimated [00:06:30] average of about $121 billion per year in all of those associated costs rolled together and you see to the far right some of those costs that were out of court settlements and jury awards. Certainly they can range into the millions when in fact we have someone hurt or killed in the workplace due to an episode of workplace violence so from a leadership standpoint, honestly there’s probably not too many topics around people’s behavior [00:07:00] at least that should have your attention the way workplace violence does, and just to kind of put this in perspective as well, we’re still not talking about an epidemic of violence. There’s actually some good news here and the good news is the numbers have come down dramatically, and I say this, and not in a kidding way at all, but typically and at least for years, whenever we’d raise the topic of workplace violence and I would ask folks, “What’s the first organization that comes to mind?” People would say, “The postal [00:07:30] service” right? We still sometimes hear people use that term that someone has gone postal to imply that they’ve become violent. Then I ask you to think, “When’s the last time you heard about a postal shooting?” The postal service having taken this problem so seriously after a rash of terrible shooting events, now a few decades ago, dramatically lowered the incidence of workplace violence in their setting, but at the same time, we’ve seen those numbers come down from the high watermark [00:08:00] of about 1080 workplace homicides in 1994 to in the 300s by 2012. Now, we’re back up around the 500s at present, but we know that the type of programs and the type of efforts that are being made, we very strongly believe are having an effect. When we do see workplace violence as a foreseeable risk, and that’s obviously you can hear my terms there start to sound a little bit like a courtroom issue, [00:08:30] we know that there’s a number of associated legal concerns, and these are issues for you, regardless of your job title or position, if you’re a small organization, you’re the owner, you’re the leader, or you’re a large multinational organization. Usually we’re looking at a number of different disciplines who have skin in the game and they’re executive leadership, and they’re legal, and HR, and they’re security. A lot of different disciplines within the organization should have a stake in this game because when a case goes wrong, the [00:09:00] type of concerns that surface quickly from the legal standpoint we’ll talk about more fully in just a few moments, things like OSHA’s general duty clause, we’re going to talk about the concept of duty of care. Also I just want to introduce very quickly because I’m not going to speak about these elsewhere in the presentation, negligent hiring, negligent supervision, and negligent retention. Negligent hiring is a concept that we should have known in some way that this person was not suitable for that job, that they introduced a [00:09:30] risk of potential violence into the situation, so I’ll give you a classic example, I’ll strip away the name of the company in this instance. An individual hired, recently out of jail and recently out of jail for sexual assault, kind of given a new chance at life and he gets hired on to be a home appliance repair man. Who’s that person going to be with home most days? Very often women home alone in the house while he’s there working on a [00:10:00] dishwasher, refrigerator, a stove or oven, and the reason that’s a famous case is it went wrong. The question in the courtroom becomes, “How did you not know? How did you not anticipate that hiring someone with that profile for that job?” And those are the two elements, really raises the risks so there’s an element of negligence there. Negligent supervision is the idea that we see things as supervisors that we’re not attending to, that we should be [00:10:30] addressing whether it’s through progressive discipline or other actions, but somehow we’re kind of dismissing the severity of that or we’re not attending to that fully and if it goes on to become a more serious situation, in court very often we hear these referred to as negligent supervisions which a case is. The last quite simply is negligent retention which is the idea that we knew, we just simply knew or should have known, and those are the standards, that someone represents a risk of violence but we let them stay too long, we kept [00:11:00] them in our employment too long where any other reasonable organization probably wouldn’t have. Just a note on that folks, very quickly, never keep someone on your books, never keep an employee out of fear that, “You know what, we’re worried about this guy, but if we fire him, man, we know he’s going to become that much more dangerous or that much more risky.” If that’s the situation you’re in with an employee, you need to think [00:11:30] that through, you need to put your heads together and think about a way to separate that person from the organization to start minimizing that risk in safe and effective manner, but it will never work for you well from a safety security of defensibility posture to keep someone who you generally believe represents that risk. We’re going to talk a little bit more about ADA and worker’s comp, talk a little more about these other legal issues as we move through, but we understand that in terms of reducing liability exposure, [00:12:00] we have to kind of make a good faith effort to demonstrate that we know about these risks, we’re doing things about these risks, because at this point, as I mentioned in my opening slides, we’re no longer sadly shocked when you turn on the news or you get a newsflash that there’s been another workplace shooting. We’re saddened by that, perhaps, but we’re no longer shocked because there’s such a frequency of these that they are foreseeable. We start to talk then about the concept of duty of care and we talk about [00:12:30] in terms of violence. The two big questions that arise are, “Did we know or should we have known that someone represented a risk? What if there were certain risks to our employees?” The other question like that is, “Did we have the types of programs and practices in place that would mitigate that?” Now, if you are not already aware of this document, this will be one of my most important points to share with you. Get online at some point, you’re going to need a copy of the American National Standard in Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention. [00:13:00] This was co-authored by ASIS, American Society for Industrial Security, and [inaudible 00:13:05] Society for Human Resource Management back in September of 2011, and it’s actually constructed by ANSI, the American National Standards Institute. It becomes our country’s, the US’s, first sort of standard around workplace violence. I’ll tell you this, as someone who helps support litigation and gets involved in litigation, very quickly when you have the case go wrong, very quickly this is coming [00:13:30] out from the plaintiff’s attorney’s briefcase and saying, “Does your company know about this document? Tell us how you are in line with the different elements of workplace violence prevention.” We want you to be aware of what OSHA has to say, we want you to be aware of this American National Standard which is quickly becoming the plaintiff attorney’s touchstone in the courtroom. The concept of duty to care or duty of care is not a law here, but [00:14:00] I will tell you though, you start look internationally, you start looking around the world in other more industrialized countries, there are countries, and we’ll give an example in a moment, that actually have moved to formal laws regarding this. I will also say that OSHA right now is on the kind of the tipping point, and it’s going to depend a little bit on the mood of the current administration and so forth, but OSHA right before the inauguration [00:14:30] was pushing hard to get the first workplace violence law on the books in the US and it was going to pertain specifically to healthcare and human service organizations where rates of violence towards employees are that much higher. We’re actually kind of very, very close to moving from this concept of duty to care to actually having some of our first duty to care laws in the US. Now, like that, when we see litigation around duty to care, these are essentially negligence cases. In negligence [00:15:00] cases, the way they work is the employer had a duty to care, we didn’t fulfill that duty, and as such, someone was hurt in that way and we should compensate for that. Right now, duty of care litigation is essentially negligence sort of litigation, but as I said, when we look around the world, there are places that have more formalized workplace violence laws and we’re on the route to doing that. One such example is in the United Kingdom [00:15:30] which is the Corporate Manslaughter, that sounds pretty serious, right? Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act going back a few years ago. This talks about the employee who’s on site, but it also talks about the remote worker and it talks about the employee who’s traveling, and I want you as leaders and I want you as decision makers to start broadening your thinking, and a term I use often is broadening or opening up wider your umbrella of workplace violence [00:16:00] prevention in a way that you’re covering more people, and I’ll talk about the logic of that in just a moment, but it’s going to become increasingly important for you to think about workplace violence beyond the four walls of your facilities. Now, OSHA, who you’re all keenly familiar with, one, does not have a formal workplace violence regulation. It falls under what’s referred to as the general duty clause which many of you are aware just simply says that employers have a responsibility to identify [00:16:30] hazards in the workplace and to try to mitigate that. Mitigate in the classic sense means reduce the likelihood of the event or the severity of the event, but once we recognize there’s a hazard, we have to take some kind of action steps, but you also need to understand that when OSHA is speaking about workplace violence, they’re talking about the workplace as wherever your employee is on the clock or on the job. Whether they are, and think [00:17:00] about this, think about someone who’s working from a home office. They’re on the clock, they’re doing the work of the company. Is there a risk of violence to them there? For the person who’s out in the field knocking on doors, there’s a lot of different places we find folks, and even when we think about the business traveler, who may get caught up in some kind of violent event. From OSHA’s standpoint, we start broadening, and this is important from a leadership standpoint, broadening our understanding about what workplace violence is, and [00:17:30] I’m going to introduce to you in a moment a fifth type of workplace violence that’s evolving beyond OSHA’s classic four types, we’re going to talk about the evolving ideas about where workplace violence happens, we’re going to talk about the evolving ideas about what to do about it as we go. Very interesting statistic. We’re told the study last year by IDC told us that by 2020, not too far in our future, about 75% of employees will work in the field, [00:18:00] will be working remotely, so when we think about workplace violence, as I said, a lot of good solid programs that organizations have, they kind of begin and end at the walls or the doors of your company, or maybe at the perimeter of your parking lot. You need to think about your employees who are in the field, even the ones who are in home offices. Now, that’s a deeper discussion, right? What duty do we owe that person? How would we police that? How would we know they’re acting in a safe way? And understand [00:18:30] that. We’re going to dig in a little more deeply to that as we go, but think about all the places where your employees can connect now, and be working in a net coffee shop. Do we owe them a duty of care if they’re on the clock? Well, OSHA kind of is our duty of care here in the states. Absent of a duty to care law, this is the closest kind of thing we have to it and what I’d suggest from a leadership standpoint is we start to align, for the time being, [00:19:00] to make sure that your workplace violence policies, procedures, plans, exercises are aligned with OSHA’s expectations but also with the American National Standard. Now, let’s start to think [inaudible 00:19:12] what workplace violence is and how it happens, and where it happens, and so forth. We already established it can happen both on site and off site, but it also is a wide range of behavior that starts on the verbal end of the scale and of course ends up with more physical and even potentially weapons [00:19:30] involved, but you have to, as a leader, start to make the mental separation. Workplace violence does not equal gun violence. Gun violence represents a very small percentage. The most common weapon used in workplace violence? Its hands and feet, right? It’s pushing, and shoving, and kicking, and tripping. It’s when it becomes physically assaultive, but yes, there’s violence downstream of that that’s harassment, its intimidation, its threats, and of course there’s violence that’s upstream of [00:20:00] that that does involve weapons and sometimes even something as serious as an active shooter situation. We also broaden our thinking about where it happens as I said, and I’m not going to belabor this slide because we’re going to do a really good job talking those five types of workplace violence in just a few moments, but we think about threat today in many, many different forms because so much communication is done electronically. This is now also a threat and it can even be a threatening image, not even spelled out, [00:20:30] that’s on Facebook, that’s in Instagram, that’s in our social media channels or it’s texted and emailed in different ways. We need to look at the evolution of our workplace, look at how people work, where people work, how those things are changing because the risks of workplace violence they follow, they evolve in that way. We think about that complete spectrum from verbal threats up to physical sorts of violence, [00:21:00] and in the most extreme cases, those that end with homicide. Now, when we talk about active shooter, and I’m only going to speak about that for a short while at the very end of the program today, because that represents the statistically smallest but the most extreme, so the low probability but high consequence even. You may be thinking to yourself, “Man, it seems like every time I turn on the news, I hear about another active shooter event.” I would say to you every time you turn on [00:21:30] the news, it’s like you hear about another shooting incident, but the classic active shooter definition is that person who’s looking for a target rich environment and they’re coming in there, probably have no relationship with the victims, they’re random victim selection, and they’re looking for numbers, so that is a different thing than necessarily workplace violence because a lot of workplace violence is targeted against a coworker, maybe a group of coworkers, and very often towards a supervisor. We’re going to speak [00:22:00] about that as well. The active shooter scenario, that’s real, and to tell you the truth, we’re going to have to rethink that and I’m going to end our presentation on that note shortly, in another 20-30 minutes from now, talking about what’s new in our thinking about active shooter risk and response, and from a leadership standpoint, what you might need to be thinking about to adapt your current posture. We hope you have something in place, but I want to be clear, [00:22:30] having an active shooter response plan, that’s not the same thing as having a workplace violence prevention program. Those are two very different things, and if you think about this graphic, you notice that active shooter, it’s just that very, very tip of the sphere. It’s the most dangerous aspect of the continuum of workplace violence but it’s also kind of the lowest probability. We want to prepare for that, you have to prepare for that, but you have to prepare for the more common and the more likely scenarios. Now, listen, [00:23:00] I’m going to tell you a story and again, sanitize this with the names and the details but here’s the story, very sad case. A small client we were working with, a company probably a hundred or less people, they had this situation. Two women with a long angry history between them, these two women for years were always hostile and bitter and angry between them. One [00:23:30] of the women goes out on medical leave, she’s pregnant and she has actually really complicated kind of pregnancy so she’s on leave, and this story ends sadly in a couple different ways, and the first way is, unfortunately, she lost the baby. It’s her first day back at work and she’s standing at this small company’s kind of coffee bar, pouring herself a cup of tea, and the woman she has this long angry history with kind of slides up behind her and real quiet under her breath says, [00:24:00] “I guess God didn’t want you to have that baby anyway.” The one woman just seems to snap, she turns around and she throws that boiling cup of tea she just poured right in the other woman’s face. One of these women leaves work in the back of an ambulance, the other left in the back of a patrol car. That’s workplace violence. The weapon’s a cup of tea, but there’s two other points there. One is this was the byproduct of a smoldering crisis, and when we see workplace violence, especially coworker [00:24:30] to coworker and coworker to supervisor, it is more likely to be the outcome of a smoldering crisis where it’s been going on a long, long time. The other time is everyone in this workplace, they knew this was coming. This was a woman who didn’t snap. If you’re familiar with that expression, if you’ve used the expression the straw that breaks the camel’s back? That’s been building for a really long time, and yeah, this was the tipping point, but it wasn’t somebody just woke up this day and just, you know, was [00:25:00] bent on violence. Those are important from a leadership standpoint. They tell us that we don’t ignore when we see those smoldering crises because the longer they fester, the longer they smolder, sometimes the more severe they become. Honestly, those sort of crises? They’re not like a bottle of wine, folks, they don’t get better with age. You want to jump on that, you want to deal with that. Now, I’m going to move to the next four slides very quickly because I’m making the assumption that either you know this or this is easy enough to find, but OSHA [00:25:30] has four classic types of workplace violence. The very first, it’s actually the most common, is what we call criminal intent and I’m just going to give you the story. The story is, here’s a convenience store worker, late at night, all alone, cash on hand. We have no relationship with the bad guy and there’s an injury or death during something like a robbery, theft, trespassing, and 85% of all workplace homicides, they happen in that context, but [00:26:00] you don’t hear about that on the news as workplace violence. You hear about that as a robbery at a convenience store or a taxi cab, a gas station, a liquor store, late at night, all alone cash on hand. That is the biggest part of the iceberg in the workplace violence picture. You may not think that applies to you, but depending on what your organization does, what you handle, what you move, you still may be that target for something like a property crime. In some industries, type two violence is much [00:26:30] more prevalent, especially in places like healthcare, human services where we know the person. It’s not type one, it’s not a stranger, it’s not just a robber. This person now is a customer or a client and the violence happens in the context of delivering [inaudible 00:26:44] normal services. The statistics tell us again in places like healthcare and hospitals, four to five times more likely to be assaulted by a patient, and guess what? If we have that healthcare worker who gets assaulted at work tonight? You’re not going to hear about that on the news [00:27:00] either as workplace violence. In fact, you don’t hear about that at all for a whole number of different reasons, but that’s another place where the numbers are huge. When you and I think of workplace violence, most people think about it, it’s coworker to coworker, it’s coworker to supervisor and I tell you, you never have to go back far for an example of this. I, just right before the presentation cut and paste one of the more recent cases it’s over the past weekend at a shopping mall. Actually, at a gym [00:27:30] in a shopping center in Florida. The trainer had just been fired, he’s taken off the property because of concerns about workplace violence. Honestly, walks right back in the door with a handgun and he shoots and kills the manager who’s fired him. Now, this tends to be targeted violence. These events usually arise out of a sense of injustice. The person feels that they were mistreated, they’re misunderstood, [00:28:00] there’s some aspect of unfairness, and someone has hurt them and they need to pay for that. The motivating factors I said is that kind of unfairness. Please notice, the first bullet. The person of concern here may be a current of former employee. We had a case in New York City, this will be the third anniversary coming up in the summer. Guy walks in, Friday afternoon in August, federal building, [00:28:30] corner of [inaudible 00:28:30] Street and King Street in the Soho section in New York. Opens fire, shoots and kills the guard, shoots the place up, turns the gun on himself. He had been fired from that building in 1989. The point from a leadership standpoint is don’t feel that if we have someone we’re concerned about a risk of violence, firing them completely ends the problem. We separate, we terminate this person, they’re gone, we never hear from them again. In fact, it actually can get trickier [00:29:00] because now you’re not seeing the person every day and you don’t know what they’re doing with that anger and they’re frustration. Managers and supervisors, when they’re targeted, it tends to arise out of two dynamics, the first is blame and the second is responsibility. I know they sound very close, but blame is [inaudible 00:29:16] that my boss did this to me, he or she has to pay for that. Responsibility is my boss maybe wasn’t the person who was abusive to me or unfair to me, but they were in a position of power and responsibility where they could have and should have stepped in to [00:29:30] help me and they didn’t, and I hold them equally accountable, so when I come back in guns blazing, this is the person I’m looking for, those people who I blame and those people who I hold responsible. Notice the bolded bullet point here. This although is the thing you hear about most common on the news as workplace violence, represents 7% of workplace homicides when compared to the 85% we spoke about earlier. Lastly, this is very serious to think about. Don’t [00:30:00] think that this is not a workplace violence problem or somehow this is a personal problem of your employee, but its domestic violence that comes to work. We call this intimate partner violence, and the target most often is female. Perpetrator most often is male. The window of highest risk is when she tries to leave him, but it’s been a violent and abuse relationship in their personal life, and you know what? Maybe now that she’s separated, he doesn’t know where she’s [00:30:30] gone. She’s staying with family or friends, she’s staying at a woman’s shelter, but man, he does know where to find her from nine to five, at your organization. Knows where she parks, knows how she walks in the building, and that person may be a sitting duck. Just as we may encourage that person, if they get a restraining order, to start building a safety plan at home for their family, for their children and so forth, we want to understand this, we want to try to help them build a safety plan at work as well, in which we can reduce [00:31:00] that risk because when this kind of violence comes to work, it can be very indiscriminate. Here’s a case yesterday. Again, San Bernardino, California. This guy is separated from his wife. She’s a teacher in a special needs classroom, teaching little kids, first to fourth grade. Guy walks in, opens fire. Shoots and kills his wife, hits two kids in the classroom who just happened to be in the line of fire. Shoots and kills himself. We’ve got, honestly, an [00:31:30] endless case list of stories just like that that other people who have nothing to do with this couple, nothing to do with their abusive history, get caught up in the crossfire. One place I do want to focus your attention that’s increasingly common and sometimes gets left out of discussion because it’s not part of OSHA’s classic four parts, or four type workplace violence is what we refer to now as [inaudible 00:31:53] violence which is ideological violence. I’m just going to again look at [inaudible 00:31:59] graphics and this [00:32:00] will tell you the s

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