You are currently viewing Addressing violence in the workplace as safety professionals
Written by Brent Knight, CSP; President of ISS, Inc.

I have addressed the topic of mental health before, even just recently. Unfortunately, it is a topic that is at the forefront of everything that we do, and it is not going anywhere.

When you turn on the news or open, headline after headline reports shootings and other acts of violence. Many want to challenge amendment rights to address the issue, but the problem is far more serious than guns, knives, or other weapons; it is about mental health.

We recently encountered violence that occurred on one of our projects. This is not the first time, but it was the most serious. Luckily, nobody was killed, but it surely could have resulted in more than one death.

As safety professionals, this topic is becoming critically important. We have depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, and violence. All these stem from the same core issue, which is a mental health epidemic in our country.

Building a culture of care and developing awareness is key to prevention. We need to engage with our workforce and have conversations about this issue as well as personal conversations with each person to find out how they are doing. Showing that we care is the first step in making discussions safe.

As far as violence, that is another issue. There are often precursors and warning signs to violence before it occurs. We need to pay attention and act when we believe that there is a reasonable chance that violence could occur. Also, I don’t mean to be extreme, but we all need to adopt a zero-tolerance policy for guns in the workplace. They should not be tolerated to be brought to work by employees, including in vehicles parked in the company lot. It may surprise you to know how many workers bring firearms to work and how many carry them concealed while on the job. I know it sounds extreme, but it is reality.

Prohibiting firearms in the workplace will not end all workplace violence, but it will help substantially. When they are not there, they cannot be used.

As a final thought, posters, and policies are necessary, but without specific discussions and training on this policy, it will not have any teeth and will not be followed. When violated, swift and appropriate action must be taken to set an example and further reinforce the zero-tolerance approach.