With stories of mass shootings at office buildings becoming increasingly commonplace, the issue of workplace violence is getting harder and harder to ignore. Whether it’s at a high-profile location like the Capital Gazette in Maryland or a seemingly unassuming software firm in Wisconsin, it’s easy to see that workplace violence doesn’t discriminate.
“You can’t say to yourself ‘this won’t happen to us,’” said Robin C. Nagele, M.A. security and leadership advisor with Nagele, Knowles & Associates, a workplace violence prevention firm that consults with organizations across the U.S. and abroad on how to reduce their risks. “It can happen to you.”
The statistics back it up. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, nearly two million U.S. workers are victims of workplace violence each year, and an FBI study identified that businesses were the setting for nearly half of 160 active-shooter incidents over a 13-year period examined by the agency.
While it’s not possible to prevent every incident, property owners and managers can and should be proactive in doing everything they can to make their buildings safer. We talked to Nagele recently about the issues surrounding workplace violence and what can be done to prevent it. Here’s what he had to say:
RN: If not, they should be. I think more people are beginning to understand that the issue of workplace violence is very important, a growing epidemic, and that it does not discriminate. Employers not only have a legal responsibility, but a moral one as well. When an incident happens, organizations opens themselves up to possible litigation where employees seek to sue employers for not providing a healthy and safe work environment. That safe and secure work environment starts from the moment you park your car on property. When people don’t feel safe, it can affect their state of mind, which in turn affects productivity and can have a negative impact on the organization’s bottom line. That is why it is critical that people and organizations focus on preventative measures. Small but important aspects of those preventive measures are lighting, security cameras, visitor management systems, access control, door locking systems, entrance and egress, holistic and collaborative team approach with leadership involvement.
RN: It all starts with identifying and mitigating risk. Start from the outermost portion of the property, in the parking lot, for example, and assess it not only during the day, but at night as well. Is the exterior lighting adequate? Is it working? Is it adequate enough to protect employees? Are there security cameras and are they working? If so, is the system antiquated? Are there hiding spaces such as hedges where bad guys can be? Is there tailgating [when people let others enter the building behind them]? Is there any type of access control?
It’s also important to have internal conversations with all key stakeholders about their concerns. It starts at the top with senior leadership, human resources, legal, safety, training, and yes, the employees. It’s not just the property manager who is responsible.
RN: Well, the most common problem is that they have nothing in place at all because their mindset or culture feels that nothing will ever happen to them. More often than not, we discover inadequacies in many areas. Or sometimes we see systems that are set up that perhaps create a false sense of security. For example, we recently visited a building that seemed to be doing some good things. They had a very good visitor management system where we had to sign in, have our pictures taken and badges issued. There were security cameras in the lobby. However, after a few soft questions, we learned the security cameras didn’t work. Businesses sometimes think just having cameras is a deterrent, whether working or not, but if they’re not working properly, it’s worse than not having them at all, both legally and morally.
RN: Not even close, but I’d like to think we are getting better. But getting better at security awareness only comes from a mindset shift which comes from training, rehearsals, more training and more rehearsals. Many times, you’ll see people talking more about safety and security right after a terrible incident happens, but then time goes by, nothing comes to fruition, and it goes onto the back burner. There needs to be more of a level of security awareness built into today’s culture.
As for building design, some tenants are stuck with existing building design where they have to make do the best they can from a security standpoint, but much can be done. For example, ID Plans offers one of the most comprehensive and detailed software-based solutions I’ve seen. ID Plans’ offerings are an incredible one-stop-shop for all critical information a property manager could wish for. The information is highly accurate and relevant. For example, building design layouts can be exported to emergency responders via PDF, be it a fire or active shooter incident. This critical information is an invaluable resource made readily assessable. As for new building design, security professionals refer to what’s called Crime Prevention through Environmental Design or CPTED. When CPTED is put into practice, the resulting environment – including the building and its surroundings – will discourage or impede criminal behavior, and at the same time encourage honest citizens to keep a watchful eye.
The answer here is really dependent upon the organization’s vulnerabilities and risks which in turn would drive the security infrastructure for each building. However, to provide some examples, organizations might want to consider proper exterior and interior lighting. Perhaps there would be one point of entry for most employees and vendors, along with a visitor management system at that entrance. Also, a security-minded company might have access control systems in place, entry card readers, and biometrics, emergency response plans and notifications systems for fire, active shooter and the like. Alarms would be set up so employees can differentiate between fire and active shooter situations. Lastly, a software-based solution like ID Plans to assist with security and emergency action protocols would be very beneficial for facilities or property managers.
It’s very important to make employees understand that security is a shared responsibility, and if they see something, they should say something! It’s not enough to just have security infrastructure in place; the human element is extremely important.
Developing a sound comprehensive workplace violence program can be somewhat of a monumental task. But you must start somewhere, and using a phased approach is better than doing nothing at all. People have a right to feel safe. When they observe positive changes being made to protect them in the workplace, it helps to foster trust, and it’s a great way to set your organization up for success.
If you’d like to find out more about security solutions for your workplace, contact Robin at 727-307-4757 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at Nageleknowlesandassociates.com
ID Plans provides the tools to help you manage your properties and contribute to the safety of the people who work there. Please contact us at email@example.com for a demo.