Dominique Gantt, a guard for Security USA Inc., was assigned to the New Carrollton federal building in Maryland. Gantt had recently broken up with an ex-boyfriend, Gary Sheppard, and had obtained a protective order prohibiting Sheppard from contacting her anywhere, including at her job. Gantt told her supervisors about the conflict and gave them a copy of the protective order.
The company's Project Manager instructed all Security USA supervisors, including Gantt's supervisor, Sergeant Angela Claggett, to assign Gantt to an "inside" post while at work in order to protect Gantt from Sheppard should he ever violate the protective order. [i]
Challenging safety and violence risks, including those involving protective orders, threats of violence, and propensity for employee violence that goes undisciplined, cause extreme stress and disruption to a work environment. These situations must be handled with extreme caution and strategy to avoid harm, chaos, and legal liability. How do we design a program that effectively anticipates dangerous violent situations, prevents violent incidents, educates employees and contractors on safety policies, and effectively manages threats and actual incidents of workplace violence?
Employer representatives, for years, have searched for effective guidance on preventing and intervening in potential workplace violence. Our requests finally have been answered…
Two important publications released in 2011 provide long sought guidance for risk control and management of workplace violence.
ASIS International (formerly the American Society for Industrial Security) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) co-published the American National Standard for Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention (“National Standard” or “Standard”).[ii] This new “WVPI” Standard provides an overview of policies, processes, and protocols that organizations of any size can adopt to help identify and prevent threatening behavior and violence affecting the workplace, and to better address and resolve threats and violence that have actually occurred.
Additionally, OSHA issued its first compliance directive on the investigation and inspection of workplace violence incidents (“Directive”).[iii] The OSHA Directive is primarily intended for use by OSHA Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) who conduct inspections of businesses or respond to an incident, yet it also provides a useful guideline for employers to fulfill their responsibility under the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to provide safe work and safe workplace. The instruction highlights the steps that should be taken in reviewing incidents of workplace violence when considering whether to initiate an inspection in industries that OSHA has identified as susceptible to this hazard. Additionally, if applicable to your business, OSHA offers guidelines for preventing workplace violence for health care and social service workers, recommendations for workplace violence prevention programs in late-night retail establishments, and a fact sheet for preventing violence against taxi and for-hire drivers.[iv]
According to Michael Nossaman, in his article New Standards For Workplace Violence Prevention And Incident Investigations[v], “Together, these two documents are a good resource for establishing or improving a WVPI program to protect employees. They also signal that a formal and comprehensive WVPI is not something that can be ignored or that just a minimum effort will suffice, especially in terms of downstream liability in the aftermath of an incident.” While employers have no legal obligation to use or follow these guidelines, they are considered current consensus on “best practice” and used as a comparative tool to assess an employer’s efforts to prevent violence as well as the adequacy of any crisis response.[vi]
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[i] http://www.lawroom.com/Print_S.aspx?STID=975 and http://pacer.ca4.uscourts.gov/opinion.pdf/031033.P.pdf.
[ii] Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention, An American Standard, Approved September 2, 2011, by the American National Standards Institute, Inc.
[iii] U. S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration, DIRECTIVE NUMBER: CPL 02-01-052 EFFECTIVE DATE: September 8, 2011, SUBJECT: Enforcement Procedures for Investigating or Inspecting Workplace Violence Incidents.
[vi] According to the National Standard, “In many ways, the Standard will help organizations to discharge important legal responsibilities related to their need to maintain a safe workplace; it is not intended, though, to set or define new legal obligation.” Ibid. at Section 1: Scope of the Standard, p. 1.