Officer Thomas Ballman, was one of the officers shot and killed. I grew up in the same subdivision with Officer Ballman, attended Girl Scouts and graduated from high school with his sister. I thought a column on workplace violence would be a fitting tribute to him and the other victims.
None of us like to think about workplace or school violence, but these incidents seem to be making the news on a more regular basis. We look at these instances and wonder what type of security, policies, training, communications, etc. we need to attempt to mitigate these situations. While we accept the hazards of driving on a daily basis, do we really look critically at our own personal safety at work, school, shopping, traveling, or any of our other daily activities? Do you look at the safety practices at your children’s school? Have you talked with the administration and determined how seriously they take this concern? What policies exist, what security is visible in your workplace? The list goes on the more you think about it.
When taking a self-defense class you are taught to be aware of your surroundings. This idea is also pertinent to our daily lives at work, school, or wherever we go. When we do risk assessments in our professional work, we look at our company’s neighbors for potential risks or threats. We all too often assume our human resource department is screening employees and consultants with background checks.
Do you challenge individuals in your work area you do not recognize? Introducing yourself and asking, if they’re new to the company or need assistance locating someone is a polite way of assessing the situation. When I’ve done this in the past, most have responded accordingly, if not appreciatively, providing their name and what they’re doing in the area. This approach also allows you to more closely see if they also have a badge displayed.
Does your company have a workplace violence policy? I recently reviewed a copy of a policy from one of my previous employers. Most companies display a statement or sign at the entrances indicating that weapons are not allowed on premises. Unless you work for a government entity, certain financial institutions, military, or other secure installations it is doubtful you will walk through any metal detectors. Through our own sense of security and lack of exposure to workplace violence, we assume people around us are not packing weapons. These are more drastic examples; however, what about other prohibited conduct? This policy I reviewed had a great list of prohibited conduct such as:
- Causing or attempting to cause physical injury to another person by actions such as punching, striking, pushing, or shoving.
- Stalking another individual and/or threatening, talking, or joking about engaging in behaviors that harass, intimidate, or inflict harm on another.
- Wearing clothing that depicts violence
- Sending threatening or intimidating email, voice mail, etc.
- Exhibiting aggressive or hostile behavior that creates a fear of injury to another person.
- Possessing a weapon while on company property, in company vehicles, or on company business.
- The company reserves the right to search our workspaces without notice.
- The individuals in Kirkwood had no idea they would encounter anything of this magnitude. They went to work that evening expecting the meeting to run to its normal closure. The lone survivor, Mayor Mike Swoboda continues on his road to health and recovery after this tragic event. He recently attended a council meeting with the new council members and new mayor.
Next time you see a new person in your work area go up and introduce yourself.
Lisa Smallwood, MBCP, CNE has been in the IT and business continuity industry for more than 20 years. She has a Master’s in Telecommunications Management degree and a Master’s in Information Management degree, both from Washington University in St. Louis. She has worked in the manufacturing, insurance, transportation, banking, utility, and telecommunications industries. She is an independent consultant and the owner of Comprehensive Emergency Management Professionals. She is also a member of the DRJ Editorial Advisory Board.
"Appeared in DRJ's Summer 2008 Issue"