Expert Interview – See Something, Say Something!
Every year, 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence. It is estimated an additional 200,000 cases per year are never reported. This is a serious issue that employers need not only be aware of, but should take steps to become prepared. While visiting Imperial Dade’s PCA division near Philadelphia I spoke to David Murray, a member of our sales team and an expert in helping companies implement workplace safety protocols.
LC: How long have you been with PCA and what is your current role?
DM: I’ve been with the company for 8 years and I am currently a Senior Account Executive. My job is to help clients better manage their consumable supplies through quantitative and qualitative analysis. My specialties include disinfection programs, infection control, floor care, and electrostatic sprayer technology.
LC: I understand you have another area of expertise and manage a business on the side.
DM: I do. In 2011, I opened an Israeli Self Defense School that teaches a military self-defense and fighting system developed for the Israel Defense Forces. It is derived from a combination of boxing, wrestling, martial arts, along with realistic fight training. In addition to training individuals, we consult with businesses and help them prepare for situations including workplace violence.
LC: How did you become interested in this field?
DM: Personal protection and protecting those who cannot do so for themselves is something I was indoctrinated with early on in life. I have been involved in martial arts and boxing since the age of 5 and have been privileged and humbled to train with some of the world’s best instructors. I saw a growing need for expert consultative services and training and wanted to put my knowledge to work helping others.
LC: Are most businesses prepared to handle emergencies involving violence?
DM: Many businesses have certainly planned and practiced their standard operating procedures, or SOPs, for various workplace safety components such as fires, natural disasters, communication systems going down, and sexual harassment to name a few. Consider workplace safety the big picture and workplace violence one component of it. Unfortunately most businesses have a false sense of confidence in dealing with workplace violence such as unruly personnel, active shooters, and terrorism.
LC: Why is that?
DM: There are 3 main reasons I have encountered. First, the task of creating the SOPs is often assigned to someone without the experience to understand modern day threats. This is inherently dangerous and poses potential harm to the staff who entrust their lives to the company’s safety programs.
Second, the person in charge may not possess real life experience with physical and verbal indicators, de-escalation tactics, and other important aspects of dealing with violence.
Third, the SOPs albeit good or bad, rarely are drilled in real time. Instead, managers and staff may be shown a video or handed a checklist. Staff must train to deal with workplace violence, no different than a quarterly fire drill. It is better to be prepared and not need to act than to be unprepared and need to act.
LC: Should all businesses invest in educating themselves about workplace violence and implement a plan to address it?
DM: Yes. Safety is the second largest component of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. If people do not feel safe at work, they instinctively become less productive which impacts the bottom line. The sooner businesses become educated about this topic the sooner they can restore order to those who have a concern about their personal safety. It can be a tough pill to swallow, but workplace violence is not going to disappear because we disagree with it, hope it will not happen, or believe someone else will handle it.
LC: What steps can businesses take to get started implementing a program and what resources are available?
DM: The first step is to implement a see something, say something policy. No professional assistance should be needed to deploy this mindset. If something seems weird, strange, suspicious, or threatening it is important to bring it to the attention of management and it should not be overlooked. This mindset helps develop situational awareness.
The second step is to bring in a professional to conduct a threat assessment of your facility. They can design a plan that fits your unique needs versus handing you a cookie-cutter program. Some of these professionals include local police, private security firms, consultants, and certified ALICE instructors. ALICE stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, and evacuate.
LC: Any additional advice?
DM: Be vigilant; not paranoid. Since the time we could walk we were taught to look both ways before crossing the street. We were not taught to be afraid of crossing the street.
David Murray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.