To be sure, most of our work is focused on preventing violent behavior, but it actually focuses on those who are possibly at risk for engaging in some kind of violent or harmful behavior - but who may not as yet have actually engaged in an extreme act of violence. Further, we are continually promoting and developing programs for organizations to help them identify these warning signs as early as possible - under the proven assumption that it is safer and less costly to deal these risks as early as possible.
We cannot eliminate all risks. We can have the best employee selection program, and we can put together a good response program - but people are people, and we simply cannot rely on the absence of adverse events in our lives. We will not be able to reduce the possibility of high-risk events to zero.
For example, let's take the issue of domestic violence. Statistically (according to the recent National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey), 1 in 5 women in the U.S. report being sexually assaulted or a victim of domestic violence, with 1 in 6 women report being stalked. As mentioned in my presentations on this subject, domestic violence is likely to find its way into the workplace, due to the simple fact that the workplace is where women predictably spend much of their day. This is a given - it just happens.
Let's take another example. Approximately 4.6% of the population (approximately 1 in 20) will make a suicidal attempt in their lifetime, according to NIH statistics. Severe depression and suicide is a concern not only for the sake of the victim, but also for others in their environment. Lest we forget, some of the more notable incidents of mass violence (Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Columbine, etc.) were suicidal events.
We cannot assume that these kinds of issues will not make it into our organization. And as Dr. Todd Conklin, one of our associates who specializes in safety and accident prevention, is fond of saying: "Luck is a remarkably complex thing to manage."
So while we cannot reduce the occurrence of all adverse events and risks to zero, we can focus on successfully and safely managing the consequences of these events. We do this through having the appropriate programs and strategies in place.
In the area of Workplace Violence, that means that we have a process in place that can successfully identify and recognize these risks, and deliver information about them, early in their development, to those who are prepared and trained to deal with these kind of risks (or at least know the resources to call in to help deal with them). The right program in place can operate to address these issues before their potential consequences can cause significant harm.
These are not new concepts. Those in the fields of Safety, Risk Management and such will readily recognize them. But remarkably, these very same tried and true concepts are often not applied to the area of violence and similar high-risk behaviors that occur in the workplace.
If you would like more information about this for your organization, please feel free to contact us as at any time.
Marc McElhaney, Ph.D.
CEO, Critical Response Associates