Sep 24 2010

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Tips to prevent workplace violence

By Jordan Pascale, JournalStar.com

An expert on workplace shootings says they can happen any place at any time and they claim 2 million victims each year.

Patrick Fiel of Alexandria, Va., is a national public safety adviser for national security company ADT.

“Employers think it can’t happen here and it can’t be prevented and that’s false,” he said by phone Thursday morning after a Wednesday night shooting at Americold Logistics plant near Crete.

Preparedness and awareness are key to preventing workplace violence, he said.

He recommends the following:

– Work with employees to create a safe environment and zero-tolerance policy on workplace violence.

– Survey employees for thoughts on security concerns; keep an open line of communication on the topic.

– Conduct a risk assessment to identify strengths and weaknesses and create a plan to address weaknesses.

– Have a well-lit parking lot and controlled access. Security cameras and key card access may help prevent or aid in the case of a workplace shooting.

– Create an anonymous tip hotline for people to call in suspicious behavior or concerns about an employee.

– Conduct annual background checks.

Warning signs
Fiel said there are warning signs of potentially dangerous employees. Here’s what to look for:

Watch for dramatic changes in attitude, behavior and work ethic.

If someone is usually active and social, then suddenly quiet and reserved, it may be an indicator, Fiel said.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management says no one can predict human behavior and there is no specific profile of a potentially dangerous individual.

However, indicators of increased risk of violent behavior have been identified by the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, Profiling and Behavioral Assessment Unit in its analysis of past incidents of workplace violence.

– Direct or veiled threats of harm

– Intimidating, belligerent, harassing, bullying or other inappropriate and aggressive behavior

– Numerous conflicts with supervisors and other employees

– Bringing, brandishing a weapon in the workplace, making inappropriate references to guns, fascination with weapons

– Fascination with incidents of workplace violence, statements indicating approval of the use of violence to resolve problems, statements indicating identification with perpetrators of workplace homicides

– Statements indicating desperation over family, financial, other personal problems, to the point of contemplating suicide

– Drug/alcohol abuse

– Extreme changes in behavior

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