Picture this: you’re at an event, perhaps with family or friends, and with only the cares of the drink and food you purchased and the excitement of the festivities on your mind. When suddenly, you see the person next to you and several others around you appear to trip or suddenly drop quickly to the ground.
Then, as you look into the lifeless eyes of the person at your feet, you hear what sounds like firecrackers amidst the ear-splitting screams of everyone around you. Your brain races to try to figure out how to get to safety.
That’s what it could have felt like for many at the recent event in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Now, imagine for a moment that you’re not at a concert but sitting at your desk with only the cares of your workday schedule when you hear those “firecrackers” and screaming. Or, worse yet, the screams are yours because YOU are the intended target of this madman’s rage!
For many, this is an unbelievable scenario – after all, something like this “could never happen to them.” But, as an expert in ethical self-defense and workplace safety and security, this is an all too familiar story for me because I see it play out, albeit in different settings and with different weapons and attacker types, every… single… day.
In fact, in the US alone, an average of 13 people are killed, and another 38,500 – the entire population of many small towns – are attacked in workplace violence attacks… every WEEK! But, even though it was not a workplace violence situation per se, what can events like the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, and the Vegas shooter, teach CEOs, CFOs, COOs, and other business owners about the potential flaws in their workplace violence plans, policies, and training programs, assuming they have anything in place to begin with?
Here are three important lessons just for starters:
1) Human beings stampede when they panic and, in lieu of training and a reliable workplace violence response plan, panicking employees will cause added injury to themselves and others in the process of trying to get away from the violence.
Attackers plan around this “stampede” response to make their task easier, and so should you.
2) Violence is random by nature. You never know when it will happen or the form it will take. But, just as with fire safety, you do as much as possible beforehand to prevent incidents from occurring; things like making sure wiring is to code and placing flammable materials securely away from heat, flames, and machinery that produce sparks. But, you also install mitigation procedures and training; things like sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers, as-well-as conducting fire drills and other response training, just in case one occurs anyway.
And, you do this because you know you need both prevention AND mitigation. Because, even if the likelihood of a fire is low, you know that the loss and level of consequence from even one occurrence will be much more costly to your business assets and operation.
Well, workplace violence is no different, except for the fact that you are many times more likely to have an act of workplace violence occur in your business than a fire – a fact born out by OSHA statistics and a statement made by the U.S. Department of Justice which says that your workplace is likely the most dangerous place you can find yourself in today’s world!
3) Attackers don’t care about what you’re going to do to them afterwards. Even if they don’t kill themselves, as Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock did as the police breached his hotel room…
… in the moment they are attacking, perpetrators are not deterred by or even considerate of the punishment facing them as a result of their actions. During the moments when they are carrying out their attack against their intended victim(s), they only care about accomplishing the intended goal!
The world has become a very different place from the one you and I grew up in And while many businesses have taken steps in instituting workplace violence prevention policies, and some even introducing albeit limited training, about 70% of companies in the United States alone, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, are still guided by denial and avoidance.
What can and should be done to insure a safer workplace for you and you employees? Here are a few suggestions for avoiding the most common mistakes:
1) Avoid relying solely on passive prevention. Attackers don’t care about your “Zero Tolerance,” and punitive action statements. And as for those false confidence-building “banned weapons on site” lists…
… chances are that a committed assailant is counting on you having disarmed all of your other employees so they won’t encounter any active resistance!
2) Have a plan, policy, and your employee response training designed by an expert in violence mitigation and tailored to your specific business. Don’t use borrowed and modified templates and, most importantly, don’t assign the task of creating this critical system to a manager or committee whose members have no actual, real-world experience with the operative word in the plan… violence!
3) Avoid randomly chosen “awareness” and stand-alone training programs. Even if more than 20% of your employees are paying attention during the training, the fact is that an “awareness and prevention” class is, more often than not, a huge waste of time, money, and resources which could be better spent on a fully optimized and systemic security and safety solution.
Used as a stand-along “awareness and prevention” program, this type of activity does nothing to improve your situation. And, while it may make some of your people more “aware,” it certainly won’t make your workplace any safer the next morning!
Instead, these programs should be a part of a systemic whole – introduced at varying points to management, security departments and response teams, as-well-as the general employee population during role-out of the different phases of your new or augmented security and response protocols.
They should not, as is most commonly done, be used like “Band-aids” or feel-good activities which only create the illusion of safety.
To be sure, the incident in Las Vegas was a horrible tragedy, as are others which occur practically every day. But merely talking about them until the next tragedy comes along does nothing to decrease the likelihood of an attack in your own workplace, nor does it mitigate damage and injury in the face of an actual assault – when you’ve discovered that your workplace violence prevention policies have failed.
As a business leader, you have a choice. You can either be realistic and recognize that in today’s turbulent world, there are more and more reasons people seem to find to lash out against their fellow human beings, and take action on that knowledge; or you can continue to ignore this reality, focus only on workplace violence prevention policies, and be left to deal with the damage to not only people and property, but also to your company’s reputation, liability, assets, and business continuity and sustainability in the aftermath!