When a violent act occurs at work, a business will have to face the situation armed only with the experience its leadership has instilled in it. And, if a company is not prepared today, it’s not too late to get started.

From 2004 to 2008, an average of 564 work-related homicides occurred each year in the U.S, according a recent 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

In 2008 alone, the 526 workplace homicides amounted to roughly 10 percent of all fatal work injuries. With these statistics in mind, what can businesses do to mitigate risk and proactively plan for such an event happening?

Starting off, it’s important to make a plan. When developing a response, keep in mind no two workplace violence incidents are the same, but creating training around practice scenarios will get employees into that frame of mind that will capture the seriousness of planning ahead.

Defense is the Best Offense

A corporate plan should include deterrence. Workers need to know how to recognize the warning signs of potential violent behavior in team members and how to properly report them. 

Employees don’t suddenly turn violent.  Often they exhibit warning signs. Recognized and properly reported, these behaviors can be managed and treated before a violent culminating event occurs at work.

By no means comprehensive, behaviors to be on the lookout for include drug use, absenteeism, withdrawal, insubordination, mood swings, angry outbursts, suicidal behavior and paranoia.

Along with actions, encourage workers to pick out clues in daily conversations. Domestic and financial problems are leading triggers of stress. Factors like these mixed with an empathy with violent individuals or a need for dangerous weapons is potential indicator of a serious threat.

Team Training

No response plan is complete without official staff training to reinforce it. In most cases of workplace violence, employees will be the first responders. As police and other emergency officials take time to arrive, they may not be able to immediately assist and assess the situation.

Empower employees with this information. The more realistic the training, the better it is.  This video, Run. Hide. Fight, is a great tool to start with: http://www.readyhoustontx.gov/runhidefightenglish.html 

During training events, use real world, “what if” scenarios that may occur at your facility. And poll the workers on their possible reaction to a violent employee or customer.

To add realism and effectiveness, obtain and use input, or direct involvement, from the local police and emergency response teams in the training also. This will insure your plan fits in line with the authorities that will help in the case of workplace violence occurring.

At a minimum, all workers should be aware of their surroundings and possible dangers. Everyone must know their primary evacuation routes and hiding places, along with alternates for each.

Any Given Monday

No plan will be all encompassing. But, corporate leadership must seek a workplace violence response plan that lists key roles and responsibilities to define key actions during an event. If this isn’t clear, chaos will ensue.

Who will talk to the media and how will counseling be offered to employees with lingering mental issues are some items to answer in a response plan.

After the situation is contained, getting your business back on track will be very important. To prepare for the aftermath, create a list of vendors or contractors who will assist in restoring property damage.

As you work with your staff, you’ll find many other areas for contingency planning. Create a resource document that outlines actions so the company is able to back to business as normal as quick as possible.

Don’t wait any longer. If active shooter comes into your place of business today, will your team be ready? If not, you have some work to do. Prepare now.