The unfortunate reality in this day, is that most of us have been touched by workplace violence and safety issues. Violence, especially gun-related violence, has infiltrated areas previously untouched: schools, homes, workplaces. The aggressors and victims vary across all demographics, professions, genders and social backgrounds. It is not a limited issue, and without substantial discussion and action in the future, it is growing to be a shockingly frequent occurrence.
Last month’s tragic shooting in Virginia Beach, VA illustrated yet another chapter in what has become a somber and challenging topic in workplace culture. As the Virginia Beach shooting has shown us: the topic poses one more complex layer to the discussion of workplace safety:
What if the aggressor is one of the employees in your organization?
The challenges that come from that thought are multi-faceted. Training and protocols presented at the workplace are therefore known to the aggressor. Access options not available to an outsider or general public may drop barriers and safeguards to protect those inside the organization. This turns the conversation toward the aspects of working from within, to protect from within.
The reality is that we have to be prepared, one and all, and keep vigilant for the signs of issues among our co-workers, associates, staff, and interactions with the public. It can be overwhelming. Individual preparedness may be the only component we can control and may be the only real choice any of us have in the workplace.
This is, of course, too large a topic for a simple article or a few paragraphs of thought on the subject. It does, however- present the opportunity for each of us to discuss and prepare our teams and workplaces for all types of emergencies, and that discussion is vital.
Law Enforcement and Government agencies encourage preparedness and education on disasters of all types that impact the workplace and workforce. Take a moment to evaluate your team and location to conceptualize, modify, or update your safety plans on several levels. Suggestions:
Preparedness Planning for Your Business
Businesses and their staff face a variety of hazards:
- Natural hazards like floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes.
- Health hazards such as widespread and serious illnesses like the flu.
- Human-caused hazards including accidents and acts of violence.
- Technology-related hazards like power outages and equipment failure.
There is much that a business leader can do to prepare his or her organization for the most likely hazards. Evaluate the potential environmental and natural hazards that may impact your workplace and discuss with your team.
The actions taken in the initial minutes of an emergency are critical. A prompt warning to employees to evacuate, shelter or lockdown can save lives. A call for help to public emergency services that provides full and accurate information will help the dispatcher send the right responders and equipment. An employee trained to administer first aid or perform CPR can be lifesaving. Action by employees with knowledge of building and process systems can help control a leak and minimize damage to the facility and the environment.
The first step when developing an emergency response plan is to conduct a risk assessment to identify potential emergency scenarios. An understanding of what can happen will enable you to determine resource requirements and to develop plans and procedures to prepare your business. The emergency plan should be consistent with your performance objectives.
- Draw up, evaluate, or modify your plans for situations such as earthquake, hurricane, inland flooding, power outages, and sever wind or tornado storms.
- If you do not have a lockdown policy in place for emergencies where violence, specifically active shooter drills and training, consider consulting law enforcement, emergency management, and the resources listed below for guidance.
- Training for employees in CPR, emergency response and preparedness, and having a contact-chain so that all employees are connected and can be accounted for in an emergency will be helpful.
At the very least, every facility should develop and implement an emergency plan for protecting employees, visitors, contractors and anyone else in the facility. This part of the emergency plan is called “protective actions for life safety” and includes building evacuation (“fire drills”), sheltering from severe weather such as tornadoes, “shelter-in-place” from an exterior airborne hazard such as a chemical release and lockdown. Lockdown is protective action when faced with an act of violence.
An unfortunate, and unpleasant topic- yet very relevant and necessary as we continue to navigate the workplace and our place among those in our society. Take a moment and bring your team together to see where you can strengthen and improve your options to handle emergencies and workplace safety issues together.
- NATIONAL SAFETY COMMISSION https://www.nsc.org/work-safety
- OSHA Safety Training: https://www.osha-safety-training.net
- gov Active Shooter: https://www.ready.gov/active-shooter