Last week’s campus violence included two college campus stabbings (in New Jersey and California) and social media threat by Fresno State student to start shooting people Monday at 3:00 with his M4 carbine. Fortunately the student who confessed to making those threats was arrested. Countless acts of workplace violence, especially toward healthcare workers, never made the news.

When violent events happen, most TV pundits immediately debate gun control legislation. While we understand this need for establishing a clear cause and effect, we know that it is complicated and, therefore, cannot happen quickly.  We at the Soteria Group want to work with legislators and civic leaders on hardening the targets that attract so much violence. We think that this is the kind of legislation that will unite the nation while pushing to establish something concrete and efficient.

Across the country nearly two million employees are victims of workplace violence annually. Such assaults cause about 500,000 employees to lose 1,751,000 days of work annually. Employees who fall victim to workplace violence lose $55 million annually in wages. All this adds up to a $4.2 billion annual expense for employers as well. If you add up secondary costs, employers lost between $6.4 and $36 billion each year.

Workplace violence comes in four main categories:

  • criminal intent (everything from robbery to active shooter)
  • customer/client
  • worker-on-worker
  • personal relationship

“While some states such as California, New York and Illinois have laws that touch on workplace violence prevention for specific sectors such as public employees or healthcare workers, none has the comprehensive approach that we at the Soteria Group believe is necessary,” says Richard H. Price Principal, Senior Analyst, CPTED CPD with Soteria Group, Safety by Design, who served 21 years as an FBI Special Agent.

Police Training Isn’t the Answer

“Across the country, well-intentioned police departments will give an afternoon seminar about workplace violence or an active shooter drill. But these laudable efforts, while better than nothing, can’t really give people the protection they need,” says Paul Feist, Principal, Senior Analyst and CPTED CPD, with the Soteria Group, who has 25 years of experience in law enforcement.

Current legislation focuses wrongly on the police: Some legislation, like this law in California, gives police money for active shooter training. While this seems like a good idea, police arrive too late for most instances of workplace violence. Most active shooter incidents are finished in 300 seconds. There were police officers on the site of many active shooter incidents going all the way back to Columbine High School. By the time the police have mobilized on the scene, the worst of the violence is often over and all that is left is the killing or the capture of the shooter.

Campuses and workplaces need to secure themselves. Schools, campuses, and workplaces must learn to defend themselves instantly by designing areas with the insights derived from Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED).

Cops are trained in many things, but not CPTED. The police academy doesn’t teach architecture, workplace training, designing security system, and crafting emergency plans. Police-led seminars give false hope because they don’t prepare schools and businesses to prevent, contain, and deal with the aftermath of workplace or campus violence. Going into that level of depth is beyond the scope of the best intentioned police officer.

Communities want police on patrol protecting them, not Powerpointing businesses all day long. Cops are better deployed doing their job of actively protecting people. The cities and counties that hired these police officers want them to patrol the community, not spend all their time behind a lectern.

The need for workplace and campuses violence protection is more than any police department could satisfy. There are 135,000 campuses in this country. There are millions of businesses. Workplace violence training needs to be budgeted for and mandated to follow certain standards across the board.

The Comprehensive Workplace Violence Legislation All States Need to Adopt:

We at the Soteria Group agree with Mark Haynes‘ plan outlined in Workplace Violence: Why Every State Must Adopt a Comprehensive Workplace Violence Prevention Law. Here are excerpts of Haynes’ Parameters for Workplace Violence Legislation. (To see the full text and the citations, click on the link above or download the PDF):

Require a Worksite Analysis

A worksite analysis is a systematic program that looks at the workplace to find existing or potential hazards for workplace violence. The recommended steps for a worksite analysis include, but are not necessarily limited to, analyzing tracking records, conducting screening surveys, and analyzing workplace security.

Analyze workplace security

At least annually, the workplace violence prevention committee should inspect the workplace and evaluate employee tasks to identify hazards that could lead to violence. The committee should analyze incidents and account for what happened to cause the incidents. The committee must also identify jobs or locations with the greatest risk of violence as well as those jobs or locations that put employees at risk of assault, including how often and in what circumstances it is most likely to occur.

Require Programs to Emphasize Hazard Prevention and Control

Once workplace violence hazards are identified through the worksite analysis, the next step for the employer is to create measures through both engineering and administrative controls to minimize workplace violence hazards.

Engineering Controls

Engineering controls attempt to remove the workplace violence hazard from the workplace or create a barrier between the worker and the hazard. Examples of engineering controls include the installation and maintenance of alarm systems, security devices, panic buttons, hand-held alarms, or noise devices. Where appropriate, employers can use metal detectors to detect weapons. In public high risk areas, employers may use closed-circuit video recording on a 24-hour basis. Employers can also provide or designate employee “safe” areas for emergencies.

Require Programs to Provide Ongoing Safety Training

Training and education ensure employees are aware of potential security hazards and equipped with the skills necessary to protect themselves and their co-workers when incidents of workplace violence arise. Employers must explain to their employees that workplace violence is not 100% preventable. However, employers must also explain to their employees that while workplace violence may sometimes be expected, it can be mitigated through frequent training.

Training programs must involve all employees, including supervisors and managers. New and reassigned employees must receive an initial orientation about workplace violence prevention before being assigned their job duties. Qualified trainers should provide instruction on workplace violence prevention at the comprehension level appropriate for the employees they are training. Topics of training may include personal safety training such as how to prevent and avoid assaults or how to manage assaultive behavior. Effective training programs should involve role playing, simulations, and drills.

Require Regular Program Evaluations

Top management must review the workplace violence prevention program regularly to evaluate its success. Workplace violence prevention committees must reevaluate policies and procedures regularly to identify areas for improvement and to take corrective action. Management must also share workplace violence prevention evaluation reports with all employees. Any changes in the program should be discussed at regular meetings with any union representatives or other employee groups.

Additional Component: Require Employers to Practice Their Plans

The FBI study on workplace violence prevention recommends that employers also regularly practice their workplace violence prevention program. The study notes that no workplace violence prevention program will work if employees are unprepared when incidents arise. Training exercises must include the senior executives charged with making decisions in a real-life incident. The exercise must also be followed by an objective evaluation that will fix any deficiencies that are revealed.

Crime Prevention through Environmental Design Needs to Be Mandated for All Government-Controlled Buildings

“We at the Soteria Group believe that planning and training is the key to prevention, but public buildings such as schools need to be held to a higher design safety standard,” says Arthur R. Tatum, Director of Design for FBT Architects and Principal of Soteria’s Environmental Design Division. “We can’t mandate Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design requirements for private buildings, but I think the law should definitely mandate that schools, at the very least, have these design principles instituted immediately.”

Target Hardening/CPTED

All government-owned buildings should utilize the principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), which are as follows:

  • Natural Surveillance
  • Natural Access Control
  • Territorial Reinforcement
  • Maintenance

This set of internationally recognized principles minimizes the opportunity for crime by effective use of design. Public buildings should be evaluated by CPTED certified practitioners who can write a report detailing the many simple and inexpensive measures that can be taken to increase the safety of a facility by taking into account the way a space is designed or laid out.

The Soteria Group has strong beliefs about how workplace violence and active shooter training should be spelled out in pending legislation. Our workplace violence and campus safety trainings are the gold standard for any proposed workplace violence and active shooter training legislation:

Call the Soteria Group (505-263-7059) to arrange a workplace risk and response training session for your team.

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