The Five Tiers of Workplace Violence Prevention

The Five Tiers of Workplace Violence Prevention – Bruce Gillooly

I liken Workplace Violence Prevention (WPVP) to a ship: It takes a lot of coordination and teamwork to navigate that ship through treacherous waters and into port without running aground. From the shipping magnate down to the deck hands, everybody must perform their assigned tasks properly and vigilantly to ensure the ship arrives safely.

The same goes for any workplace regarding Workplace Violence (WPV). The senior leadership must include WPV prevention (WPVP) in their strategic planning and dedicate time and resources to training their employees on how to spot and assess WPV risks.

Likewise, it’s prudent for senior leadership to not only write policies and procedures, but to provide this training and include step-by-step instructions on how to spot and assess potential WPV threats. Although the American National Standard outlines a recommended course of action for WPV prevention, OSHA Directive CPL 02-01-058, dated 01-10-2017, Enforcement Procedures and Scheduling for Occupational Exposure to Workplace Violence now recognizes workplace violence as a workplace hazard that is subject to the General Duty Clause.

The senior leadership is not expected to become the expert in WPVP; however, they are expected to appoint experts to manage their WPVP program. These experts come from both within and outside the organization to form teams that help the senior leadership implement their WPV policies and procedures. The American National Standard (ASIS/SHRM WVPI.1-2011) for Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention, which is considered the U.S. guide for WPVP, recommends companies form two teams: A Threat Management Team (TMT) and a Crisis Management Team (CMT).

The TMT coordinates anything that supports WPVP before an incident occurs. The TMT consults with outside experts to ensure, among other things, the policies and procedures are viable, the training program effective, and the facilities secure. Think of the TMT as the “what if” team that considers every possible WPV scenario and enacts measures to mitigate the risk. A typical TMT includes, but is not limited to, the following personnel: a representative from senior leadership to liaison with the C-suite, a member of the legal team, a member of the Human Resources team, and a member of the security team. This would be the core group; however, additional personnel could be added on an ad hoc basis. For example, some companies prefer to include a member of local law enforcement on the TMT.

The CMT coordinates everything during and after a WPV incident. Think of the CMT as the “stop it” and “fix it” team. As you can imagine, the CMT must be very well-trained and must practice frequently to maintain proficiency. Since a WPV incident can strike anywhere and at any time, the CMT must be vigilant. WPV incidents are life or death situations, so seconds count and first steps are critical. Obviously, missteps can cost lives and could bankrupt the company, as civil suits in the aftermath of a WPV incident have been known to cost millions of dollars in damages.

Next, the management team and employees need effective training to spot and assess potential WPV situations. Sixty five percent of WPV incidents are perpetrated by a current or former employee, so managers and employees should be taught to recognize the telltale signs of someone in crisis. If managers and employees are taught to recognize the symptoms of crisis, they can help begin the healing before a crisis occurs. It’s the right thing to do and it is a sound business decision, too.

If these five tiers are coordinated properly, a company can comprehensively mitigate WPV. Although there is no way to eliminate it, the five tiers are an excellent way to come close.

So, there are five tiers to comprehensive WPVP:

  1. Sound policies and procedures.
  2. Employee training.
  3. Manager training.
  4. TMT and CMT training.
  5. Executive or C-Suite training.