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Echo Press Editorial: Follow these three steps to a safer workplace

We see it from time to time in the sheriff and police blotter: workplace violence.

An employer who is firing someone will request police presence while the employee clears his desk and leaves the building. Sometimes, the employer isn’t expecting a big scene and it erupts out of the blue.

Workplace violence is a growing concern for employers and employees each year, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It affects more than 2 million people in the U.S. annually.

However, there are measures businesses can take to decrease the likelihood of a violent incident. We received an e-mail from Signal 88 Security Company, a private security company with more than 100 franchise locations across the U.S. and Canada, that lists three steps to a safer workplace. It’s worth sharing with local businesses. Here it is:

Step 1: Identify possible threats. While there may not be a stereotypical attacker profile, warning signs are often present leading up to a violent incident. Employees should be trained to watch for symptoms in their co-workers including outbursts of anger, notable changes in behavior or homicidal/suicidal comments or threats. Mark Hillstrom, owner of one of the Signal 88 Security offices serving the Twin Cities, points to the most common motive as revenge, noting that a personal or professional trigger such as divorce, death or work-related setback can lead to violence. Drug and alcohol use can also be a warning sign.

Step 2: Secure the workplace. Employees are the first line of defense for a company’s security. Aside from being trained to recognize possible threats, workers need to be familiar with their employer’s anti-violence policy, which should address harassment and drug and alcohol use, and is consistently enforced.

For physical workplace security, businesses should control access for employees and visitors. Depending on the size of the company, photo ID badges are an important security tool. In many cases, these ID badges can also serve as a pass key to otherwise restricted areas. Visitors should check in with an employee immediately upon entering the facility and should be escorted at all times.

Step 3: Plan a response. Should an incident of violence occur at the workplace, it’s important all employees know how to react. Particularly in the event of an active shooter, an incident can escalate in a matter of minutes. Each person must determine if their best course of action is to run, hide or fight. The first option should be to run; look for an escape plan and get yourself and others out of danger. If this is not possible, barricade yourself in a locked room or behind a sturdy object and call 911. Finally, if running or hiding is not an option, attempt to disrupt the attacker by physical attack or by throwing objects. When law enforcement arrives, attempt to stay calm and follow officers’ instructions.

Workplace violence is one of those issues that some companies would rather sweep under the rug instead of taking the time to prepare for it. Don’t make that mistake.