Week of March 12, 2001
Editor's Choice Web Pick
Coping with Workplace Violence: U.S. OPM Site Offers Facilities-Specific Counsel
By JACK LYNE Site Selection Executive Editor of Interactive Publishing
'Silent Alarms,' 'Natural Barriers'Perhaps the best thing about the nine-page OPM guide is its concise straightforwardness.
The guide's "Physical Security Survey" section, for example, describes the first steps in beginning to establish a plan for a specific facility, including a number of examples for improving security. The Physical Security Survey section also offers a to-the-point list of measures to take in "improving security in frontline offices that serve the public." Those measures include installing under-the-counter "silent, concealed alarms" and "arrang[ing] office furniture and partitions so that frontline employees . . . are surrounded by 'natural barriers' (desks, countertops, partitions)."
Yes, those are simple measures. Yet how many reception and customer service desks have you seen that are located only feed from an entrance but had neither protective feature?
The OPM guide also includes some basic steps to follow to safeguard computer systems from potential malice by former employees.
Handouts That Could MatterThe guide's handouts include one that outlines steps that employees should take in "coping with threats and violence." That handout takes in the gamut of potential situations, from dealing with "an angry or hostile customer or coworker," to "a person shouting, swearing and threatening" to "someone threatening you with a gun, knife or other weapon."
There's also a succinct online checklist for dealing with "telephone threats." Such threats are part the most common form of workplace violence, according to the Society for Human Resource Management survey. Forty-one percent of the companies in that survey reported having received "verbal threats," either over the phone or in the workplace.
Preparation Ups Odds of ResolutionOf course, there's nothing in this guide that really isn't supremely commonsensical. Some forward-thinking companies, in fact, have already taken many or all of these precautions.
Surveys indicate, however, that an alarmingly high number of firms, particularly SMEs, haven't even thought through their workplace-violence coping strategies. For the latter group, OPM's online guide will perhaps at least serve as a starting point for getting a handle on an issue that isn't going away.
"The likelihood of a successful resolution is much greater if you have prepared ahead of time," the OPM advises.
Zero-tolerance policies can be downright silly, as they've amply demonstrated. Workplace violence, though, is one arena in which zero tolerance is the stuff of quintessential sanity.
Storm Alerts: Workplace Violence Warning SignsWhile not every person exhibiting these behaviors will resort to violence, experts in the field say these warning signs have been commonly associated with individuals who've committed violent workplace acts:
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