When a workplace violence threat occurs often companies do not discover the threat until an employee, coworker, or manager comes forward to express their concerns to HR or someone in senior management.
Threats may be made from within your organization or by clients, vendors, subcontractors, visitors to your facility, or employee’s family members and others.
It is always best to seek professional threat assessment immediately.
When the company is aware of a potentially threatening situation, the company is considered responsible for the safety and well-being of its employees under both federal and state workplace safety statutes. Most companies today have a zero tolerance for violence; and most companies today have workplace violence policies and procedures in their Employee Handbooks.
These documents are helpful, however, they are not intended to provide physical security for employees nor do they provide threat assessment techniques.
Federal OSHA mandates that employers provide a safe and secure workplace for their employees. It should also be noted that OSHA also includes sexual harassment and stalking, in addition to electronic threats are also included in issues that may result in a violent act.
Every year there are an estimated 2 million incidents of violence in the workplace. It is therefore extremely important for employers to recognize and act on potential threats and provide training to managers as well as emergency response teams, Human Resources staff and managers to recognize the warning signs for workplace violence.
Many different types of threats occur in different scenarios; every situation is unique and must be approached by professionals trained to recognize and respond to these threats.
Threat situations can easily escalate and may be unpredictable.
The threatener (subject) may be experiencing different degrees of psychological health and mental stability.
Proactively protecting your employees and your organization is key.
Often the threatener’s behavior is highly unpredictable; they often do not respond the way other people would and this should be carefully considered when evaluating the situation and possible responses. In some cases the subject will tell you whatever they think you want to hear but will continue with the threat scenario they have been planning on.
Initially there can be a lot of confusing and misleading information about what exactly has occurred; therefore it is important to have discreet conversations with those who have heard the threat, or had the threat reported to them, as quickly as possible.
Delays can be life-threatening and should be avoided.
There may be a threat of physical violence, sexual harassment, stalking behaviors, bomb threats and various other types of intimidating or aggressive behavior. The person may also exhibit suicidal tendencies or thoughts. In many cases this behavior has been ignored or avoided by coworkers for some time. Often investigators are told that the person is “just venting off steam” as they “always do” so special attention was not given to accelerating behavioral issues.
A threat may be indirect or direct.
Understanding the nature and types of threat being made are critical and should be assessed by trained professionals or law enforcement.
Direct threats typically involve very specific threats of violence predicated on specific conditions described by the person making the threat. Indirect threats are more commonly made and are often easily overlooked by colleagues and coworkers, but can be just as dangerous.
Threat risk assessment reports are extremely important to conduct: not only do they yield important historical and recent information about the threatener, but they also provide an instrument that will help your company’s executive understand the severity and scope of the threatener’s behavior in an objective report, risk-ranked according to low/ medium/high level of risk for propensity to workplace violence.
Threat risk assessment reports also make it easier to understand the gravity of the situation and to pool necessary resources within your organization to deal with a uniform strategy and approach.
In more serious threat situations, your company may need to involve one or more of the following team members within your organization:
- Executive Management: CEO and/or Chief Financial Officer
- Senior Legal counsel
- Human Resources
- Public Relations/ Communications Officer
- Company spokespersons
- Grievance Counselors
The following is a brief summary of some of the key factors that we look into when there is a concern for workplace violence, threats being made, and other behaviors such as stalking or aggression outside of work which may have impacted other company employees. In some instances the threatener may be a former employee, a client or prior client, a family member or other related or unrelated individual.
Note: This section is not intended to be comprehensive.
Where do we start?
Has a threat been made? What was said exactly?
A threat risk assessment will often be made based on discussions or discreet interviews with staff and supervisors or managers and other individuals that the subject is familiar with.
This can be done concurrently with arranging armed protection personnel to make sure that your company’s employees are safe.
Does the company have evidence of information, emails, or other items that may be important and relevant?
For example the subject has a known history of looking for weapons at work, bringing weapons to work (in their car or desk). In some cases, the subject may have information on their desktop or laptop that should be reviewed for content or browsing history.
Do you have a recent photo of the employee or subject?
A photo and or physical description is best if available to assist in recognizing the subject. Not only for responding armed protection specialists but also to alert your internal lobby/ reception personnel should the subject show up unexpectedly.
Was a background check conducted on the person before they were hired?
Can the background report be found? In many cases we have worked on a background check was run but cannot actually be located.
A detailed threat assessment background should be conducted to rapidly determine if any new adverse activities have occurred such as threats posted on social media, online weapons fascination, new criminal activities, financial stresses that have developed.
There are numerous background check components that need to be examined for signs of workplace violence and related issues of aggression, intimidation and other behaviors.
Credit history and driving histories are two of the items we look at: does the person have a history of weapons possession, police evasion, road rage or other serious driving infractions that may suggest aggressive behaviors?
Has the subject’s ability to cope changed?
Often coworkers are aware of changes the subject has mentioned or things they have observed during the workday.
There are a myriad reasons that result in a subject having increasing agitation and difficulty coping in life. For example, they may be in a difficult divorce case, losing access to their children or parental visits, and many other issues such as alcohol abuse, drug abuse, over-medication, etc. In many cases there are undiagnosed mental health issues. Have they been up all night playing violent video games (this may impact other mental health issues which may have already existed) and the person is also dealing with exhaustion and other exacerbating factors.
Professional investigators and security experts review all of the information found; create a shortlist of known factors and evidence (if any exists) and then rank the concerns in a threat assessment summary.
From this an assessment of degree of risk, whether high, medium or low will typically be made, along with recommendations for security hardening of your facility and a determination of whether armed security specialists are needed.
There are dozens of other factors involved in threat risk assessments, this is only a brief summary for initial consideration.