Reducing Violence In The Workplace

This article covers why a mesh security network is essential for modern workplaces.

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April 02, 2020

Going Postal: Violence and Safety in the Workplace; the Vitality of Crisis Management


Feeling safe at work is an issue that we can all agree is vital for morale. However, it has never been as crucial an issue for employers to tackle as it is now. The best way to ensure safety is to mitigate risks in the first place.


Such an example of a public display of workplace safety we can find all the way back in the 1933 film “42nd Street” by Lloyd Bacon. In the closing scene, a curtain drops on a theater stage as a musical comes to an end. Printed on the curtain in massive letters is the word “ASBESTOS.”


Well, today that wouldn’t make us feel so secure, right? 


But, before we discovered that asbestos is carcinogenic, it was used in places that were at risk for entirely burning down right after the smallest spark caught flame. An asbestos curtain in the 1930s was touted as the pinnacle of fire safety for employees and guests alike. Peace of mind meant more tickets sold. Fewer fires, of course, meant less money wasted on preventable repairs.


However, threats to safety cannot always be stopped before they start. While an ALERTPOINT Security placard at your building entrances will mitigate some risks, the fact of the matter is that hazards and violence are a reality, and it’s a pressing issue on your employees’ minds. This is why we’ve developed the hardware and software to manage crises once they’ve happened.


For our first article, let’s take a brief history lesson, as those who forget it are doomed to repeat it.


What is Going Postal?

While this phrase entered our vocabularies, many people don’t really know why we use it. 


It probably has something to do with mail, right?


Yes. The first major incidences of workplace violence began in the 1980s at post offices around the country. In 1986, the Edmond, OK post office attack committed by a troubled employee demonstrated how vulnerable workplaces can be to violent attacks, and how precious time becomes during an assault. 


In less than 15 minutes, after entering a facility of 100 people, the shooter had shot 20 (killing 14) before turning the gun on himself.


Why did we start saying “Going Postal” and why do we still say it?

Very sadly, Edmond didn’t remain a unique case for very long. From the 80s throughout the mid-90s, troubled and disgruntled postal workers committed acts of workplace violence that resulted in a loss of numerous lives, including an incident in your author’s hometown (the 1991 Ridgewood, NJ attack.)


This isn’t the time or place for psychoanalysis, but it’s safe to say that the following contributed to the violence upon postal workers at their places of work:


  • Employees working long, odd hours while under stress
  • Minimal security on-premises
  • Lack of an adequate emergency response and crisis management system


To combat workplace violence and promote safety against violent threats, the US federal government and OSHA are working together to help mitigate risks before they become actionable violence or harassment. 


Yet, that still is not enough, as violence in the workplace is still a reality. To underscore what we mentioned above, almost two million workers in the US each year are the victims of violent and/or harassing acts during working hours. Further, about 1 in 7 workers today factor in the possibility of physical harm from an attack in the workplace when they’re considering a new job.


What can we do about this problem?

As we know, preventing violence before it happens is the best measure to keep your employees safe. However, this has two inherent yet critical weaknesses:


  • Prevention programs do not prevent 100% of violent acts from happening
  • Your employees don’t have peace of mind with blind faith alone that a prevention program is in place


We believe that for the greatest possible mitigation of risk to your employees involves three components in this following order of before, during, and after:


  • Prevention of Crisis
  • Management of Crisis
  • Investigation/Understanding of Crisis


Examples of prevention are security guards, training programs, screening techniques during hiring, etc.


Management is where a company like ALERTPOINT Security comes in, as well as with assisting investigators and stakeholders with understanding, utilizing the data collected during an emergency event from our hubs, monitors, and software.


Management of a crisis is arguably the most critical component of the above, as it indicates that prevention itself has already failed - there is nothing left to consider at this stage other than how best to send help to who, where, and how.


Investigating and understanding what caused a crisis to occur, and how it developed, allows organizations to better prepare and fortify their existing prevention programs, as well as notice any gaps (if any) in how the existing management system needs to be replaced (worst case scenario,) supplemented, or performed exactly as designed and provided the utmost safety (best case scenario.)


So, what does this all mean for me?

While the unfortunate reality is that workplace violence is nothing new and is never going to cease being a threat, there are solutions available that can ensure that you have as many bases covered as possible.


Every organization and (often) every facility has unique needs that require unique solutions. We suggest you think of crisis management as a long-term solution, such as selecting which contractor is going to build a lasting institution on a property you acquired.


Shop around first before making a final decision. Vet competitors.


Most companies like ALERTPOINT Security have proven track records of success in providing your employees and other involved parties with peace of mind, but more importantly, the highest caliber of emergency management technology available to the market. Find not one or two, but three to five vendors and demo each of the solutions available.


After all, we are talking about physical safety and the preservation of lives that are at stake during a violent threat or emergency situation. 


We’re looking forward to hearing your unique needs for employee peace of mind and crisis management. 



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