Be aware of the warning signs to potential violence in the workplace

Nobody ever thinks that they will be the victim of an act of violence or terrorism in the workplace, even as these tragic events become more and more common in our society, says Matthew D. Gauen, CPCU, CIC, Senior Vice President and Partner at Woodruff-Sawyer & Co.
As a result, little is done to prepare for or be aware of the potential warning signs that may offer evidence that something really bad is about to happen.
“Your job is not just to look at what is happening today,” Gauen says. “You have to be looking out into the future. Let’s say you’re on a dark, windy road and the headlights are the only light you have to show what’s ahead. You have to be thinking past the headlights to that hairpin turn that could be coming. It’s the hairpin turn that you hope you never have to take. But you better be prepared in case you do.”
An increasing number of workplace tragedies in recent years have involved an active shooter. Those who acknowledge this threat tend to focus on things like securing their entrance with key cards or installing security cameras. While these are good steps to take, they don’t always address the biggest gap in preparedness.
Smart Business spoke with Gauen about the value of listening to and training your employees and how it could help you prevent a tragedy.
How can awareness be a tool to protect against an active shooter threat?
In most cases, it is important that employees be able to maintain privacy when it comes to their personal lives.
However, in cases in which an employee is exhibiting behavior or making statements that indicate they could be a potential threat to the safety of their fellow co-workers, you and your employees need to feel empowered to speak to their human resources department or appropriate supervisor about it.
So often, people keep to themselves and don’t think it’s their responsibility or their place to get involved in someone else’s business.
This does not apply when it comes to workplace safety. If you see or hear something that doesn’t feel right, neither you nor your employees can afford to ignore it.
How do you create an environment in which people are willing to address these concerns?
Reinforce your open-door policy. Make sure employees know that you value them not just as your workforce, but as valued men and women who you want to support and keep safe.
If you put out the message that you want people to take advantage of your open-door policy, it may not resonate today.
But when an employee does have a major issue, he or she will be more likely to bring up either to their immediate supervisor or to HR that something is going on.
If that happens, it’s critical that you take the concern seriously to show that the employee did the right thing by bringing it to your attention.
What role can training play in protecting against an active shooter threat?
An active shooter is counting on people in the building to be incapacitated with fear.
Expert training can help people view the situation differently and take steps to not only protect themselves, but find ways to stop the perpetrator.
It’s the fight or flight mentality. When something happens and your instinct goes to flight, you will automatically start running. But with training, you can help people to focus on the fight when they need to.
The goal is to make them more aware of their surroundings and, for example, think to flip a table as protection or search for everyday items that can be used as weapons to defend themselves.
It’s critical for all employees to be trained, not just management.
There’s no question about the value of educating your employees.
It’s an important part of an overall plan for preparedness that includes pre- and post-crisis procedures, and is well worth losing an afternoon’s productivity to get training that could save their lives. ●
Insights Business Insurance is brought to you by Woodruff-Sawyer & Co.

Woodruff-Sawyer is sponsoring Active Shooter Awareness Training, a workshop for employers to learn about how to be more prepared for this type of workplace crisis. The workshop will take place on March 24, 2016. For details, click here: