Is Your Workplace Vulnerable to Violence?

ASSE/RIMS survey shows that employers lack workplace violence risk assessments.

Because employees remain concerned about workplace violence, safety experts are urging company managers and safety professionals to conduct a risk assessment and vulnerability audit of their workplace.

That recommendation is the result of a nationwide workplace violence survey by the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS). The survey is aimed at assessing awareness and prevention techniques used by managers and safety professionals to avoid violent workplace incidents.

Responses to the survey, sent to 1,500 randomly selected risk management organizations, RIMS members and safety professionals, revealed that about half of the organizations have implemented programs to address workplace violence by improved hiring techniques, security measures and no weapons policies. Most respondents, however, noted that they had not done a formal workplace violence risk assessment.

Thus, ASSE's Risk Management/Insurance (RM/I) Division concluded that there needs to be more focus on preparing the workplace for possible violent actions in an effort to provide continued safety in the workplace for all, said Kathy Seabrook, vice president of practices and standards for ASSE and president of Global Solutions Inc. in Mendham, N.J. "We also found it is increasingly vital, especially from a legal standpoint, that employers take precautions to create and maintain a safe working environment," Seabrook added.

Members of RM/I and RIMS noted the urgency of equipping employers with the knowledge and resources needed to prevent violent workplace occurrences following a major increase in the number of deadly incidents in the workplace over the past few years. For instance, the U.S. Department of Justice found that 21,300 recent assaults and violent acts in the workplace resulted in fatalities, injuries, grief-stricken family and friends and missed days from work due to the emotional impact. It is estimated that the cost to employers in days missed and legal fees was $4.2 billion in 1992.

In response to the outcome of the survey, risk management and safety departments are advised to train all employees in the warning signs of aggressive or violent behavior, train management in threat assessment and de-escalation techniques, and review and verify insurance coverage. It is also important to note that, legally, employers may be liable for failing to provide adequate on-site safety and security measures after they have been notified of a potential danger.

The survey findings can be found on the RIMS Web site at www.rims.org.

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