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Workplace Violence - Do You Have A Plan?

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February 17, 2012. 5:30PM.


Long Beach, California.


Phones calls made to 911 from an office.


Someone has been shot.

This wasn't an ordinary business. It was the Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office. And, the shooting wasn't the result of an angry outsider entering the building, but a confrontation between two federal immigration agents. Two supervisors. Two extensively trained, intelligent, experienced ICE professionals.

(If you have not heard about this tragic event, here is a link to the Associated Press article.)

No one goes to their office expecting a workplace dispute to occur. Let alone an incident that ends in shots being fired. The story out of Long Beach should serve as a lesson for talent managers everywhere. Workplace violence occurs every day across the country; it's just that not all of these incidents are large enough to make national and international news.

"Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers and visitors." - United States Department of Labor

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that homicides are the fourth-leading cause of fatal occupational accidents (across all industries). In 2010, of the 4,547 fatal workplace injuries reported (note: not everyone reports them), 506 were workplace homicides.

This raises an important question for all talent managers and other district leadership: Do you have a plan of action in the event employees, students, parents, or outsiders get into an altercation on your premises?

While some districts have plans and annual staff training around workplace violence, many other districts have outdated plans that live in the bottom of a desk drawer. Violent events are never planned. They often occur quickly without warning. Unfortunately, our nation has seen far too many violent events occur in schools over the past several years, including student on student violence, parent on board violence, and teacher on teacher violence. No school (big or small... rural, urban, or suburban) is immune.

My intention is not to scare teachers, parents, students, and other school leaders. I mention these incidents as a reminder that preparation in this area could literally save lives. Luckily, there are a number of valuable (and free!) resources to help. I'd recommend reading more information on prevention, planning, and other considerations on the websites below. As always, please share your thoughts and questions in the comments section.

• Occupational Safety and Health Act's - Workplace Safety FAQ
• FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin - Workplace Violence Prevention: Readiness and Response
National Crime Prevention Council
• United States Department of Agriculture - The USDA Handbook on Workplace Violence Prevention and Response
• United States Office of Personnel Management - Dealing with Workplace Violence: A Guide for Agency Planners

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