Tuesday, August 9, 2011

But Does Anyone Have Any Numbers?

Our peer Barry Nixon asks "Can anyone refer me to a good source or research that has been conducted on measuring the impact of workplace violence prevention programs?"

Barry is the founder of the National Institute for the Prevention of Workplace Violence and he and I have discussed the latest numbers in great detail recently so he knows the basic stats.  The question I suspect Barry is trying to answer is, “Are there any data that demonstrate that having an organized WPV program creates a detectable reduction in deaths, injuries, threats, or *cases?” (*Of course, a very successful program might easily increase the number of reported cases while reducing their severity). While we all strive to reduce fatalities, with the exception of homicides during robberies, they are relatively rare and a single severe incident can throw off the numbers. Tracking injuries, assaults, and threats may prove a more useful measure.

The FBI is certainly a promising resource.  Some correspondents referred Barry to the January 2011 FBI Bulletin.  As good as it is it presents best practices offered by eminent practitioners in the field that most everyone agrees makes good sense and which ought to reduce the severity of workplace violence cases (at least those involving other than Type I offenders).

With regard to workplace homicides, since ~75% occur during robberies at the hands of Type I offenders, a reduction in homicides and injuries during robberies represent a reduction in workplace violence (assaults and threats, by definition, not so much). Likewise reducing the number of robberies can reduce the number of persons harmed even if the rate of homicide and injury during the crime do not change.  JAMA has as paper testing a medical prevention model to the issue.  The effect of CPTED principles on robbery have been written up.  I have not touched the law enforcement literature on this topic.  So, Question 1:

What can our public administrators tell us about the impact of robbery risk reduction efforts on homicide rates? 

When it comes to Type II, III, and IV offenders - clients and patients, coworkers and ex-coworkers, and family and friends, respectively - an effective workplace violence prevention and response program should be able to track successful interventions, cases of which the company/client was aware but did not result in violence, changes in corrective actions and terminations for behaviors that are workplace violence risk factors, a reduction in assaults and threats reported by employees, a reduction in harassment and toxic manager cases, a reduction in some sorts of worker's comp claims, and increased employee job satisfaction and retention metrics. Question 2 is: 

Do our peers in Human Resources have any statistical methods that demonstrate that sexual harassment training actually reduces the severity and rate of incidents? Can their methods be applied to our question? 

In the very worst case of workplace mass murder at the hands of an active shooter, do those who apply best practices survival strategies survive, or suffer fewer or less severe injuries, than those who do not? Who offers routine instructions for low probability high impact events?  The airline industry.  Passengers who report paying close attention to the pre-flight safety briefings on commercial airlines are better prepared than those who do not. Finally, Question 3: 

How can post incident analyses be applied to after action reports of mass shootings? 

Other studies seem few and far between.  Most close by recommending further research.  There are some recent and not so recent doctoral dissertations that have been nibbling on this topic, but has anyone got a source for scientifically assembled hard numbers? Is the apparent decline in workplace homicides the result of education, prevention, and mitigation plans or is it part of the overall decline in violent crimeIs it possible that so many organizations have been so busy implementing their workplace violence prevention programs that have not had time to measure the contribution they make to the security, safety, and well-being of our employees?  Those of us who have managed cases to their conclusion are happy that our anecdotes are usually about potential harms successfully disarmed, but these are not statistics.  Will workplace violence prevention programs become a pro forma best practice without regard to their actual effectiveness?

Updated 10 August 2011: The deeper I dig the clearer it seems that only the healthcare sector has even attempted to assemble any statistics regarding the effectiveness of violence reduction programs.  As I play with search terms in the academic journal databases I'm finding more doctoral dissertations on the subject.  Two look especially good (in a security nerd sort of way), Developing a grounded theory for successful workplace violence prevention programs by Linda F. Florence, and A critical review of the prevalence and effectiveness of workplace violence prevention programs by Debra Deane.  I've sent away for copies of both.

Good news and bad news:  The good news, in 2008 James T. Wassell published a paper titled Workplace violence intervention effectiveness: A systematic literature review.  The bad news, he didn't find much high quality evidence either.  Of 100 studies half dealt with Type II offenders in the healthcare setting.  Ten percent discussed homicide prevention in retail establishments (Type I offenders).  He recommended more research...

More bad news: Developing a grounded theory for successful workplace violence prevention programs by Linda F. Florence "is not available at any academic or public libraries in the United States."  I have no budget for this research so I will not be spending $33.00 for a copy.