Publish dateApr 3, 2019
As more workplaces are targeted by a variety of physical threats, it is critical to examine the figures behind this phenomenon. Recent research from the world’s largest human resources organization, the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), outlines a rise in workplace violence, ranging from verbal threats to mass casualty attacks. One in four HR professionals reported an incident of workplace violence in the past year, pointing to a high rate of violence that should concern all employers. Disturbingly, 48% of HR professionals said that their organization had experienced an incident of workplace violence before.
Over time, regulatory and technological advancements have contributed to safer working conditions, yet according to SHRM, a staggering two million Americans are victims of workplace violence annually, and one in seven employees feel unsafe at work. If that figure is applied to the national workforce, it means 22 million Americans go to work every day without feeling safe. In addition to endangering human lives, workplace violence can impact employee morale, retention, customer relationships, and financial performance. This pervasive issue creates a serious challenge for America’s working professionals, employers, and security professionals.
External attacks, such as those on Westgate Mall, The Capital Gazette, and Charlie Hebdo, have many businesses looking outward for potential threats. However, 15% of workplace homicides are committed by a co-worker, emphasizing the need for internal screening. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that more than 76% of workplace homicides are committed with a firearm. These internal threats range from disgruntled employees, like the shooting in Aurora, Illinois, to those entrusted to be in secured areas, such as the baggage handler in Atlanta who smuggled 135 guns onto commercial flights.
Importance of Prevention & Training Programs
Naturally, it is difficult for any workplace to deal with a violent incident, but SHRM’s research shows that those who prepare effectively are significantly better off. The organization heavily stresses the value of implementing a program to prevent workplace violence. At firms with employee response training and violence prevention programs, almost nine out of ten employees are confident that they “know what to do” in a violent situation. At organizations without these preventative measures, the figure is five in ten. These figures demonstrate the importance of making sure employees understand the resources available to them and are trained in violence prevention and emergency response.
Spotting Red Flags
History has shown that violent incidents occur at almost every size and type of business, and it only takes one disgruntled employee to inflict long-lasting pain on an organization. According to SHRM, indicators of potential violence include noticeable decreases in attention to appearance or hygiene, resistance or overreaction to changes in policy, and noticeably unstable, emotional responses. When considering potential warning signs or threats, SHRM reports that one of the safest ways to voice concerns is through an anonymous tip line. However, the workplace can be unpredictable, and warning signs may not appear until it is too late, further stressing the importance of deploying effecting security measures and training employees how to act in an emergency.
While more commonly targeted businesses, such as airports, have been making strides in employee screening, many other businesses only act after an incident occurs. With violence persisting in the American workplace, the need for efficient, reliable security measures has never been greater. Improving workplace security requires a variety of considerations and factors, including assessing security vulnerabilities and receiving stakeholder feedback. In order to ensure a safe workspace for employees, customers, and guests, internal and external threats need to be comprehensively evaluated, including the strategies put in place to deal with them. If an organization decides to screen employees for physical threats, it must be in a respectful, non-invasive manner that doesn’t interrupt regular business functions. Physical threat detection systems like the Evolv Edge accomplish this, allowing businesses to utilize a scalable, risk-based security model based on perceived threat level.