Poll Reveals Employee Concern Over Workplace Safety

July 13, 2001
A poll of American workers reveals a significant lack of confidence in the ability of employers to successfully take\r\nprecautions to prevent workplace violence.


A new poll of American workers reveals a significant lack of confidence in the ability of employers to successfully take precautions to prevent workplace violence, the Employment Law Alliance (ELA) reported.

The survey of 1,000 American adults found that more than 25 percent of those polled believe their employers are ill prepared to deal with workplace violence.

Attorney Charles T. Huddleston, chair of the Employment Law Practice Group at Atlanta''s Arnall Golden Gregory, said that employers must take steps to address workplace violence before it occurs.

"Given that one in 10 employees have personally experienced violence, the issue facing most large employers is not if they will ever deal with an act of workplace violence, but when. Employers must take all steps necessary to earn the trust of their workers, including the formation of a multidisciplinary threat assessment team."

The survey resulted in many significant findings, including:

  • 27 percent of employees surveyed said their employers are not sufficiently prepared to deal with threats of violence in the workplace.
  • 28 percent of those polled expressed confidence that their employer was extremely well prepared to deal with threats of violence.
  • 12 percent said they had personally experienced either violence to themselves or to a co-worker.
  • 63 percent support a zero-tolerance policy (immediate termination) for employees who engage in threats of violence in the workplace.

"The poll should serve as a wake-up call to employers," commented Stephen Hirschfeld, Esq., chief executive of ELA. "While the federal and state governments strongly advocate every employer having a workplace violence prevention strategy in place, the fact is the vast majority do not and will not until confronted with a crisis."

Dr. Theodore Reed, a partner in the research firm of Reed Haldy McIntosh & Associates, and the study director of the America At Work poll, said the overwhelming majority of those surveyed believe they are safe at work, but at the same time they''re concerned about what they perceive to be a serious lack of planning to prevent or respond to workplace violence.

He said that lack of security was more pronounced among women, older workers and part-time workers.

John Lane, founder and national president of The Association of Threat Assessment Professionals, and formerly head of the domestic terrorism unit of the Los Angeles Police Department, believes that many employers are simply "rolling the dice, hoping their number doesn''t come up."

He says that "employers often create elaborate zero tolerance policies, but fail to communicate the company''s perspective on what constitutes an act of violence, leaving employees with the perception that management is either unresponsive or ill prepared to deal with their concerns."

Lane''s partner, threat assessment psychiatrist Dr. Michael Zone, is confident that proactive training of all employees is central to any prevention plan.

He believes that "instilling compassion for the potential perpetrator of violence -- the ''troubled'' employee who has not yet escalated to ''troubling'' -- will ensure that warning signs are identified early, before the commission of a violent act."

Huddleston, Georgia ELA''s spokesperson, said that the best policies dealing with workplace violence promote regular and candid internal communications with employees.

"The proactive approach to this highly sensitive area is the very best approach," Huddleston said. "Denial doesn''t do anyone any good."

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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