Monday, October 24, 2011

Half A Loaf Is Better Than None

I guess...

According to ASIS:

This Standard provides an overview of policies, processes, and protocols that organizations can adopt to help identify and prevent threatening behavior and violence affecting the workplace, and to better address and resolve threats and violence that have actually occurred. This Standard describes the personnel within organizations who typically become involved in prevention and intervention efforts; outlines a proactive organizational approach to workplace violence focused on prevention and early intervention; and proposes ways in which an organization can better detect, investigate, manage, and - whenever possible - resolve behavior that has generated concerns for workplace safety from violence. The Standard also describes the implementation of a Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention Program, and protocols for effective incident management and resolution.

I've been looking forward to the results of this collaboration so I read the standard with enthusiasm.  Having done so I've come away with half a loaf, so to speak.

The Good News:

The new ANSI national standard was put together by many of the top names in the business and does a solid job outlining a corporate response to threats and violence by coworkers and former coworkers (Type III), and family members, friends, and associates (Type IV). It emphasizes the value of a cross-disciplinary team and a broad-spectrum response when assessing and responding to threats within the business.  To the degree that this sort of violence is what most people, employers, and the news media think of when they hear the term "workplace violence" the standard is a move in the right direction.

The Bad News:

Unfortunately, the new ANSI national standard pays but the briefest of lip service to violence perpetrated by criminals – especially during robberies (Type I) or clients, customers, and patients (Type II). Violence by criminals accounts for 75% of all homicides at work. Violence by patients in health care and social services, especially in mental health setting, accounts for the bulk of injuries to employees (and until recently has long been the only category of workplace violence subject to specific OSHA regulation). By not addressing the prevention of or response to these issues in any way the new standard ignores the majority of the problem of workplace violence.

No mention of suicide:

The standard does not even mention the word, let alone examine the idea that some troubled employees end their lives at work.  The 263 suicides in 2009 represent roughly a third of all workplace deaths due to "assault and violent acts."  There are twice as many suicides at work as there are Type II, III, and IV deaths combined.  Why the silence?

I look forward to learning more about why it played out this way and if there is any hope the standard will be broadened to address all aspects of workplace violence.

UPDATE: I corresponded with a friend and peer who served on one of the standard's development committees.  He agreed Type I was left hanging, but makes a good case that Type II offenders can be addressed using this model.  When I think on it further the behaviors exhibited by many clients and customers can be a lot like Type III violence.  Still, attacks and injuries in the health care setting - especially in custodial units - remains more like Type I violence.  My friend was pleased the standard turned out as well as it did on the first pass given the size and scope of the project, three associations in the mix, strict standards criteria, hundreds of participants, and four years of development.  Fair enough.

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