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The Role of HR and Technology in Preventing Workplace Violence

Workplace violence is increasing. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), nearly 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year in the U.S. Additionally, many businesses are reluctant to report workplace violence, creating a misleading picture of violence in the workplace.

One study found that up to 48 percent of workers’ compensation claims are not reported to OSHA. This occurs for several reasons:

  • Lack of awareness
  • Lack of communication
  • Lack of incentive to report.

Workplace violence is defined as any act of violence that occurs at a work site, including:

  • Physical violence
  • Harassment
  • Intimidation
  • Other threatening disruptive behavior

While building security are usually the first line of defense in a violent situation, increasingly human resource professionals are being asked to help prevent workplace violence from occurring in the first place. In additional, new technology is being designed and utilized to quickly identify violent situations and activate first responders.

Employment often is the most stable part of an employee’s life. If this stability is shaken in some way, some people respond in unhealthy and sometimes violent ways. The traditional role of HR as a safe, supporting part of the work environment places HR professionals in the unique position of being able to possibly prevent workplace threats.

Research has shown that often there is a period of time before an act of violence is perpetrated during which the perpetrator is forming the intent to act out. HR professionals are trained to evaluate people and situations carefully; this expertise can be leveraged to identify potentially dangerous situations before they escalate to violence.

HR staff (and managers) can be trained to identify and de-escalate potentially violent situations by:

  • Developing awareness and early detection techniques
  • Practicing conflict resolution and violence de-escalation techniques
  • Cultivating a workplace culture that encourages staff to discuss their concerns, especially during periods of organizational change
  • Planning ahead for situations that require immediate intervention
  • Developing protocols that include advanced technology to minimize delays in threat detection
  • Training multi-disciplinary intervention teams (i.e. building security, managers, HR staff, local law enforcement, etc.) on how to best respond to various scenarios
  • Setting up internal protective measures and training on how to rapidly activate police, fire and medical first responders when necessary.

Early detection is clearly a key element in a threat identification and management plan. Minimizing the time between detection of a violent situation and taking the perpetrator into custody can save people from undue trauma, injury and even death.

New technologies, such as an acoustic gun-shot detection and location platform, can help to mitigate an active shooter incident because people often do not recognize the sound of gunfire when it first happens. New gunshot technology utilizes both indoor and outdoor sensors to detect the precise location of gunfire in a matter of seconds, giving first responders critical information.

Smart, well-prepared staff and employees, coupled with new technologies, can go a long way toward early detection and conflict identification well before a violent or active shooter incident occurs. Creating a plan and leveraging tools and technology can help reduce and manage the risk of workplace violence and hopefully save lives.

If you would like to learn more about how Lanier Upshaw can help your organization mitigate the risks of workplace violence, contact us here.