Thursday, March 29, 2012

Just Teaching the Controversy

Maintaining a commitment to Young Earth Creationism must be a lot of work...

Refuting their pseudoscience, not so much.

Thanks to Jerry Coyne at WhyEvolutionIsTrue for the links.

Respond to Terrorism

Not with fear but with indomitability...

So reads the conclusion of an excellent post by Bruce Schneier recapitulating his online debate with former TSA administrator Kip Hawley.  The Economist hosted the discussion at their website (interesting format).  It's worth your time.

Refuse the terror.

This Could Be Habit-Forming

I took took my new Dobsonian telescope for a spin around the early night sky...

This month, the last of my 53rd year, I spent some of my holiday gift money on something I've long thought about buying - a telescope.  The Bushnell ARES 5 inch Compact Truss Tube Dobsonian Telescope had many nice reviews for a starter scope and the price was very nice at OpticsPlanet.  Everything cheaper was smaller and had fewer features.  Everything more expensive was a lot more expensive.

I adjusted the collimation of the secondary and primary mirrors with a home made tool this evening and took it outside a little after sunset.  I used the moon as a target to zero the red dot finder scope (I ran out of adjustment; it'll need a shim).  The moon filled the eyepiece and the craters looked like I could reach out and touch them.  By then Venus was shining.  It is almost annoyingly bright and it was only quarter phase.  Then a pinprick of light appeared a fist width below it in the darkening sky.  Yes, it was Jupiter and its four Galilean moons.  I could make out bands of color.  I invited the folks to come have a look and then texted the kids and my sister-in-law, whose gift funded this neat purchase.  As Jupiter descended into the trees to the west Mars was rising above the trees to the east.  I reoriented my little Dobs and had a look at the small orange dot.  Not a bad start for my first night observing the sky in the light polluted suburbs.  This telescope will be a hoot at the cabin this summer.  Fun, fun, fun.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What Did You Learn?

Asks a peer at LinkedIn: "If you mentored a security professional in the last 12 months what did “YOU” learn?"

Among other things, I learned that:

Despite being a blogger and the possessor of an iPhone I'm a technological dinosaur.

Young people are smart in ways that are different from me and my fellow Boomers.

Young professionals are never unplugged, and they don't worry about it as much as I do.

That diversity is a opportunity to be leveraged, not a problem to be solved.

And I learned that, while I will inevitably lose the race to my younger and smarters, the only way I can hope even to remain connected with them is to continue to grow myself.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Increasing Violence or Increased Reporting?

Security Technology Executive tells us hospitals are experiencing an epidemic of workplace violence...

What does that mean?  As Marleah Blades assembled her wide-ranging article she interviewed a variety of well-known security practitioners in the hospital security field, Bonnie Michelman, David Gibbs, and Bryan Warren.  As is frequently the case, the underlying studies tell a more complete, interesting, and useful story than the article referring to them.

The Joint Commission

“The Joint Commission’s Sentinel Event Database, which tracks unexpected events resulting in death or serious injury, shows that 2011 had the second-highest reported rate of criminal events since the database’s inception in 1995.”

What is a “sentinel event?” According to The Joint Commission “A sentinel event is an unexpected occurrence involving death or serious physical or psychological injury, or the risk thereof. Serious injury specifically includes loss of limb or function. The phrase "or the risk thereof" includes any process variation for which a recurrence would carry a significant chance of a serious adverse outcome.”

What is the statistical significance of sentinel events? The Joint Commission cautions the its readers “The reporting of most sentinel events to The Joint Commission is voluntary and represents only a small proportion of actual events. Therefore, these data are not an epidemiologic data set and no conclusions should be drawn about the actual relative frequency of events or trends in events over time.”

The Joint Commission’s "Criminal Events" category is titled “Assault/Rape/Homicide.”  As the following Emergency Nurses Association study shows the term ‘assault’ may represent a wide variety of acts. Homicide is unambiguous. One would think the emotion-laden term “rape,” as commonly understood, would be used very carefully. In its Assault/Rape/Homicide category The Joint Commission tells us “Rape defined as un-consented sexual contact.”  The phrase “sexual assault” would seem to be a more accurate description of such behavior.

The Joint Commission recorded 49 Criminal Events in 2011, surpassing the previous high of 45 set in 2008. It has recorded 311 Criminal Events between 1995 and 2011.

Emergency Nurses Association (ENA)

“The Emergency Department Violence Surveillance Study released by the Emergency Nurses Association in Nov. 2011 found that of more than 6,500 emergency department nurses surveyed, 54.5 percent had experienced physical violence and/or verbal abuse at work at some point in the previous seven days.”

The "and/or" is very important to this story.  The details from that survey actually report slightly higher numbers. Of 6,543 nurses responding to the survey 12% had experienced physical violence in the past seven days. Of those nurses experiencing violence 62.2% encountered it more than once in the previous week. Of those nurses experiencing violence 13.4% suffered an injury. The most common act of physical violence was being grabbed/pulled (48.3%), slapped/punched (41.3%), spit on (35.8%), pushed/shoved/thrown (27.6%), or kicked (25.8%). The most common injury sustained by a nurse was bruise/contusion/blunt trauma (60.0%), abrasion/scratch (51.4%), sprain/strain/spasm (20.8%), and exposure to bodily fluids (20%).

In the previous seven days 53.7% were subjected to verbal abuse. Common forms of verbal abuse took the form of being sworn/cursed at (89%), yelled/shouted at (89%), called names (68.2%), threatened with legal action (51.8%), harassed with sexual language/innuendos (22.7%), and threatened with physical violence/weapons (19.8%).

Not quite half of ED nurses who responded to this survey (45.5%) experienced no violence in the previous seven days.

International Association For Healthcare Security & Safety (IAHSS)

“Workplace violence is part of an epidemic in healthcare now, and line staff — regardless of what unit they work in — must have at least a basic knowledge of how to recognize potential warning signs and how to react appropriately when an incident occurs.” – Bryan Warren, Senior Manager of Corporate Security at Carolinas Healthcare System and president of IAHSS.

We're told the IAHSS 2010 crime and security trends survey referred to in the article states "reported that in four categories — sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault — violent crime in hospitals increased by 200 percent from 2004-2009."  It's behind a membership wall (anyone out there have a copy they can share?) so we can't see their data, but there are some statistical clues we can draw from the very detailed analysis of the Emergency Nurses Association survey data.

In the Emergency Department the patient is the perpetrator of 97.8% of physical violence and 92.3% of the verbal abuse.

Events occur in the patient’s room 82% of the time.

The verbal abuse or violence occurs while triaging the patient (40.2%), restraining/subduing the patient (34.8%), or performing an invasive procedure on the patient (29.4%).

When the verbal abuse or violence occurred many patients were under the influence of alcohol (55.7%), under the influence of illicit/prescription drugs (46.8%), or a psychiatric patient (45.2%).

Perpetrators of physical violence were lucid 73.1% of the time (or not lucid a quarter of the time).

This is what the phrase "Workplace Violence" means in the health care setting.  Violence in hospitals is committed almost exclusively by patients, usually while receiving care in their rooms.  They are frequently intoxicated, medicated, or being treated for psychiatric disorders (they are not even lucid 26.9% of the time).  Much of the verbal abuse and/or violent behavior occurs while the patient is being assessed, while they are being restrained (already violent), or when they experience discomfort during an invasive procedure.  These risk factors have been well-understood by OSHA for some time now.  I submit these events have little to do with security hardware budgets; they have everything to do with the complex issues arising out of professional staff levels, working conditions, concerns about patients' rights, the number of psychiatric beds, and the cost of medical care.

Under-reporting of harassment, bullying, verbal threats, and simple assault by employees is a serious concern, so efforts to increase management awareness of these issues is important to those of us responsible for providing a positive and productive work environment.  For better or (mostly) worse the phrase "workplace violence" has become synonymous for workplace mass murder.  Using the phrase when you mean anything else, simply because everyone pricks up their ears when you say it, is unseemly and unprofessional.

We need to be careful with our data collection, interpretation, and communication.  When we survey populations we can expect those with negative experiences to respond more than those who are not troubled. When employee awareness and incident reporting program kicks in we can expect to hear from team members who never said anything about being uncomfortable or fearful at work before.  Increased reporting is not the same increased violence.


Emergency Department Violence Surveillance Study, November 2011

Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Health Care & Social Service Workers

The Joint Commission - Sentinel Event

The Workplace Violence Epidemic

Summary Data of Sentinel Events Reviewed by The Joint Commission

Sentinel Event Data Event Type by Year 1995-2011, pg. 7.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Like Jelly Bean Recipes

Sometimes challenging podcasts are best consumed in unlikely little handfuls...

I got a little depressed the other day listening to Jeffrey Sachs LSE talk titled The Price of Civilization.  Bitter, but worth it.

Then I had a helping of About Time, which partly lifted the weight of Sachs' gloomy analysis.  Hmmn, better.

I added a Lean Start Up talk by Eric Ries for a taste of creative destruction and reflective leadership, which mixed with About Time to create a sense that there are many smart people with good ideas that can help us dig our way out of our current troubles.  Hopefully spicy.

Topping it all off with The Bodhisattva's Brain: Buddhism Naturalised, by Owen Flanagan left me feeling balanced and sufficiently suffonsified.  A smooth finish.

They don't look like they'd go good together, but they become something special once you start chewing.  Try it, you might like it.  Better yet, share your creative learning recipes with the Eclectic Breakfast. 

Seriously, someone make grass, dirt, and soap flavored jellybeans?  Yes, apparently they do...blech!

Image credit: Michelle Hume

Like a Mere Orange Peel on a Giant Orange of Metal

Mercury is a giant ball of iron...

The Messenger robot explorer has been orbiting the planet Mercury for a year now.  The innermost planet in our solar system looks a little like our moon on the outside, but looks are deceiving.  Under its thin crust Mercury is mostly iron.  Like most of my interest in astronomy, this doesn't affect day to day life here on planet Earth very much I suppose, but understanding the cosmos and our place in it is always a good thing.  That, and having a reserve of nerdy cocktail party trivia worthy of Cliff Claven can come in handy from time to time (or so I'm told).   

Image credit: Case Western University by way of Discover Magazine

From Your Lips To God's Ears

The business of security has shifted from protecting companies from risks, to being the new source of competitive advantage . . .

Phil Wood is the head of Security Studies at Buckinghamshire New University and a prolific blogger at bucks new uni security.  He reminded us of an excellent paper by Rachel Briggs and
Charlie Edwards published in 2006 by Demos titled The Business of Resilience: Corporate Security for the 21st Century.  If you want to participate in a paradigm shift that is badly needed in the security industry read this paper in detail. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Price of Civilization

Economics and ethics after the fall...

Marvelously challenging and more than a little depressing podcast (or video if you prefer) of a lecture presented by Professor Jeffrey Sachs at the LSE in December 2011 (I'm catching up on my podcasts steadily but slowly).  Sobering stuff, but what choice have we got?

UPDATE: Another interesting LSE lecture (a panel talk actually) titled, About Time, examines some of our social and economic assumptions about the length of the work week in western nations.  It feels a little like a counterpoint to Sachs' talk and is a little less dire.  This one was recorded in January of this year.

Photo credit:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Proto Scouts

In the late 19th and during the first half of the 20th centuries some ambitious military armorers did some interesting work making their standard bolt action fighting rifle a more handy implement...

The M1894 Swede was another handy fighting carbine that fails to make scout weight.  Not that the Swedes were much for fighting during the service life of this handy little rifle.

At the close of the 19th century some of the US Krag carbines (1896, 1898, and 1899) missed what some regard as the maximum standard 3.5 kg mark by fractions of ounces. 

Another interesting case was the Springfield 1903 Bushmaster Carbine created when the Oklahoma National Guard bobbed the barrels and furniture of their 1903 rifles while stationed in Panama during WWII.  The wood was cut back and the barrels shortened to 18 inches.  4,725 were so modified, but no good deed goes unpunished.  In 1945 all of them were recalled to the armory, stripped of reusable parts, and what remained dumped into the ocean.

The Enfield No.5 Jungle Carbine was called out by name in the Colonel Cooper's musings on the scout rifle concept.  Unlike the Bushmaster or the Swede, the No.5 almost "made weight" at 3.1 kg unloaded, and that with plenty of steel where a fella might to choose to remove it these days.  It was also the most numerous of such full-power fighting carbines, with some 250,000 manufactured until production was ended in 1947.

After having made the M1 Garand needlessly large and overweight - by insisting it be produced as a 30'06 rather than the 276 Pedersen for which it was developed - the US War Department experimented with a shorter version, the T26.  Too little, too late.  It came to naught.

I'm not sure the Spanish FR8 is properly considered a proto scout.  The FR8 and the FR7 - same idea but built on the 1916 small ring action - served as trainers for the Spanish military until they had enough CETME selfloading rifles (HK91 precursors) to go around.  They were not built to be lightweight fighting carbines like some of the other proto scouts, but they were shorter and lighter than the full length predecessor from which they were assembled.  Those I've seen were rougher than a cob and the rear sight looked like a "C Minus" middle school shop project.  They were made into the 1950s.

But for these examples, it seems that most armies of the world forget the value of handiness in the century between the American Civil War and the Second World War, but Colonel Cooper noticed, and added their merits to his scout rifle concept.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Did You Choose To Read This Post?

Experts disagree...

The Chronicle of Higher Education has posted a neat little collection of essays regarding the concept of free will.  Read them, or don't.  It's your decision.

UPDATE: Here's an interesting analysis of five of the papers, written by the author of the sixth.

Image credit: René Descartes' illustration of dualism courtesy of

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Birds, and Zombies, and Monsters

Oh, my!

Cassie and I went to see The Birds at the Guthrie's Dowling Studio Wednesday evening this week.  Based on Daphne du Maurier's short story of the same name, not Hitchcock's 1963 masterpiece, this play by Conor McPherson departs from both in significant and important ways.  It evokes the claustrophobic "survivors stuck in a stranger's house" trope fleshed out by George Romero in the years since du Maurier and Hitchcock.  It could have been angry birds, killer bees, zombies, or alien invaders outside; the effect of being confined in the house peels the veneer off the terrorized inhabitants all the same.  In time one begins to wonder whether the real monsters are outside the house or hiding inside it.  It's not perfect - it sags from time to time in its intermission-less 95 minutes - but it has its moments, and live theater is always its own sort of special treat.  This production of The Birds even comes with a study guide.  Public rush seating costs $20 Sunday through Thursday evenings and all matinees, and $25 Friday and Saturday evenings.  This will save you $9-14 per ticket.  The Dowling Studio is general admission so show up early and choose a seat that's exactly as good as that secured with full price ticket.  It runs through April 8.

The Walking Dead season finale is this Sunday (already, what is it with these 13 episode cable TV "seasons" with their halfway hiatus anyway?).  I have mixed feelings about the series, but it's the only fresh zombie show in town.  It seems mostly a parable about how difficult it is to protect your family and maintain a sense of community when the chips are down.

Even the spiritually minded Krista Tippett dipped into the genre in a 1 December 2011 On Being episode titled Monsters We Love.  Not her best or most focused work.  It was frustrating to listen to the usually divine Ms. Tippett and her guest, Diane Winston, discussing shows one or the other had not seen.  That, and they got all gaga about vampires, the monster female victims most hope to encounter.

Why do we love apocalypses?  Why are we fascinated with disastrous turns of nature?  What is the attraction of once human monster who now lack personality and volition but present a deadly threat to the living?  Why do we watch - or choose not to watch - Doomsday Preppers or Hoarding: Buried Alive?

Some possible answers have been offered over the years.  Are we embracing the unifying effect of fear, regardless the sort of horror entertainment we're watching?  Indulging our fear of the Other?  Fretting over a fear of loss of control (although that's usually more of a shape shifting werewolf's concern)?  Do our psyches seek release after bearing the numbing weight of terror, war, and recession for more than a decade?  Are we rehearsing our responses to fear and uncertainty?  Or are we engaged in a survivalist revenge fantasy, in which all our frustrations with family, friends, and neighbors can be solved with a head shot, like some real world "first person shooter" video game?  Don't look too close unless you really want to know the answer.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Why Are There More Security Issues With Each Passing Day?

Asks a LinkedIn peer who lives and works in Pakistan...

I won't presume to speak to the realities on the ground in Pakistan, but here in the States I wonder sometimes whether there really are more security problems, or are we simply being told about issues we were never told of before?

The voracious 24 hour news cycle and the explosion of social media present stories – large, small, and obscure - to us with such urgency that it's easy to imagine things are worse.

I find that not watching news programming commercial television or listening to commercial radio drive time talk shows helps a lot.

When we look at the Google news aggregator there may be thousands of reports on a single topic but almost of them are based on the same wire service story.

When selecting the form and quantity of social media to consume we should be careful not to choose sources and communities with which we always agree.

Otherwise we risk being led into an echo chamber where group think and confirmation bias reinforce our human tendency toward cultural cognition of risk which create a sense of dread that is deeper than the facts call for.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Specialization Is For Insects

To borrow a phrase from Robert A. Heinlein, I try not focus too narrowly on any given topic; it's the surprises that are most interesting...

For those of you who do not have access to my LinkedIn "Reading List by Amazon," here are some of my non-fiction shooting, hunting, fighting, and warfare favorites:

1776 by David McCullough

A History of Warfare by John Keegan

A Rifleman Went To War

Archaeological Perspectives on the Battle of the Little Bighorn by Douglas D. Scott, Richard A. Fox Jr., Melissa A. Connor, Dick Harmon
Cooper on handguns by Jeff Cooper 

1754-1766 by Fred Anderson

Dispatches by Michael Herr

Herodotus: The Histories by Herodotus *

Hiroshima by John Hersey
Hit Or Myth by Louis Awerbuck

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

Horned Death by John Burger

Instinctive Shooting by G. Fred Asbell

Kursk: The Clash of Armour by Geoffrey Jukes

Rifles For Africa by Gregor Woods

Roman Warfare by Adrian Goldsworthy

Safari Rifles by Craig Boddington

Sharpshooting For Sport And War by William Wellington Greener

Shots at Big Game by Craig Boddington

Stalking & Still-Hunting by G. Fred Asbell

Street Smart Gun Book by John Farnam

That Every Man Be Armed by Stephen P. Halbrook

The AK47 Story by Edward Clinton Ezell

The Art of the Rifle by Jeff Cooper

The Rifle in America by Philip B. Sharpe

Up North (Outdoor Essays & Reflections) by Sam Cook

Use Enough Gun by Robert Ruark

With British Snipers to the Reich by Capt. C. Shore 

* Okay, Herodotus was pretty fanciful, less so than Homer - who was clearly a storyteller without pretense, but not nearly so careful as Thucydides - the West's first serious historian.

UPDATE: As of late March 2012 I have discovered Goodreads and have moved many of my reading details here

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Leadership Books I've Found Useful

A recent LinkedIn thread asked for recommended leadership and team-building books.  These were my mine..

Business Ethics: Ethical Decision Making and Cases by O. C. Ferrell, John Fraedrich, Ferrell

Cigars, Whiskey & Winning: Leadership Lessons from Ulysses S. Grant by Al Kaltman

Coaching, Second Edition: Evoking Excellence in Others by James Flaherty

Creativity is Forever by Gary Davis

Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within (US Business & Management Series) by Robert E. Quinn

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Lead by Example: 50 Ways Great Leaders Inspire Results by John Baldoni

Making Sense of Leadership: Exploring the Five Key Roles Used by Effective Leaders by Esther Cameron, Mike Green

Moral Intelligence: Enhancing Business Performance and Leadership Success by Doug Lennick, Fred Kiel

On Leadership: Essential Principles for Success by Donald J. Palmisano

Opposable Mind: Winning Through Integrative Thinking by Roger L. Martin

Shackleton's Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer by Margot Morrell, Stephanie Capparell, Alexandra Shackleton

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu, Gia-Fu Feng, Jane English, Jacob Needleman

Technology in America - 2nd Edition: A History of Individuals and Ideas by Carroll W. Pursell

The Art of War by Sun Tzu - Classic Collector's Edition: Includes The Classic Giles and Full Length Translations

The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels by Michael Watkins

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable (J-B Lencioni Series) by Patrick Lencioni

The Leader of the Future 2: Visions, Strategies, and Practices for the New Era (J-B Leader to Leader Institute/PF Drucker Foundation) by Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith

The Leader's Edge: Six Creative Competencies for Navigating Complex Challenges by Charles J. Palus, David M. Horth

The Lost Art of War: Recently Discovered Companion to the Bestselling The Art of War by Sun-Tzu

What Do You Mean When You Say Workplace Violence?

Security professionals must proceed with caution when wielding powerful terms and important statistics.

NOTE: This is an annotated pre-publication draft of an article submitted for publication in the March 2012 issue of Security Management magazine. After a flurry of active consideration it was rejected. Since then the charts here have been obsoleted by a 2012 NCCI Workplace Violence study due to the fine grain analysis completed by its authors, Tanya Restrepo and Harry Shuford.

Early on Wednesday morning, October 5, 2011, Shareef Allman brought an AK47 and a 9mm pistol to work at Lehigh Hanson's Permanente Cement Plant, a landmark in the hills above the South Bay city of Cupertino, California. During a morning safety meeting he opened fire on his co-workers and then fled. Three persons were killed, seven were wounded, and the police engaged in a community-wide manhunt while schools and high-tech businesses operated under lockdown conditions. The search ended the next morning when Allman was shot and killed as he threatened law enforcement officers nearly a day after the killings. Since then we have learned that Allman displayed many different warning signs before the fatal day. There was a history of domestic violence (which does not always occur in these cases). Allman made comments to family members describing violent use of military-style weapons. There were long standing grievances at work. Ominously, Allman made arrangements to block exit routes before he began shooting. As with other acts like it this incident illustrates the complexity of connecting the dots in advance of violence, something which is all too easy to do after the incident. Yet another disgruntled employee committing mass murder at work. It happens all the time. Or does it?

Open the newspaper, read the news online, peruse your security magazines and safety blogs. Find an article about workplace violence. With very few exceptions we are treated to lurid headlines exclaiming that workplace violence is the second leading cause of death at work, that employees succumb to violence at work at the rate of two per day, that it’s an epidemic, and it’s getting worse. Says one security magazine article, “Distraught employees are injuring or killing co-workers and supervisors at an alarming rate. Customer rage is at an all-time high. Domestic violence has spilled over into the workplace. And it’s not that these incidents are getting more media coverage – the Center for Disease Control has officially classified workplace violence as a national epidemic."

Security professionals are at their best when offering well reasoned business advice in calm discourse, but something about workplace violence seems to activate an innate tendency to engage in hyperbole and fear-mongering. The truth is that, despite the media drumbeat to the contrary, workplace homicide has been declining steadily over the past 18 years and is only 50% what it was when the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking the category in 1992.

Coming to terms

Some terms and concepts are so powerful that sometimes even security professionals have trouble responding to them thoughtfully. While conducting research for my Master’s I asked private security professionals at several LinkedIn groups, the management staff of a contract guarding company, line officers at a guarding contract client site, and three security-related blogs were asked to answer a brief survey related to workplace violence. Among others two questions assessed the knowledge of the magnitude and nature of the problem.

When asked the number of workplace violence murders committed each year in the U.S. 57% of respondents under-estimated. Only one in ten (9.6%) private security professionals correctly answered the question. 32% over-estimated the number. 15% of respondents did not know the answer. When asked the percentage of workplace violence murders in the U.S. committed by co-workers, former co-workers, clients, family, or friends of the victim 10% of respondents underestimated. Four out of five (83%) private security professionals over-estimated the percentage of workplace violence murders in the U.S. committed by co-workers, former co-workers, clients, family, or friends of the victim. Only one in 12 (8.0%) private security professional correctly answered the question.

This sort of disconnect has been explained by those who study the psychology of risk. We tend to overestimate the risk of encountering exotic hazards (air crashes) and downplay the frequency of more mundane hazards (car crashes). This specific case may be the result of lack of access to or awareness of the available statistics. Or it may be the consequence of the very human tendency to get it wrong when we conflate our feelings about risk with actually thinking about the real numbers. The survey represented very small, self-selected sample. The opinions expressed were just that, opinions. But two fact-based questions were asked. The idea that self-selected private security professionals with strong opinions about the risk of workplace violence were unable to accurately describe the magnitude or nature of lethal workplace violence is striking.

These are the terms used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics use to describe workplace violence and its perpetrators:

Type I: The offender is engaged in criminal activity, frequently robbery

Type II: These offenders have or had some sort of business relationship with the business where the violence was perpetrated by clients, customers, or patients

Type III: Includes coworkers and former coworkers

Type IV: Family, friends, or acquaintances of the victim; frequently an intimate partner

I’ve been told by a wise peer "I don't think employees are really concerned about the workplace violence perpetrator's classification." I couldn't agree more, especially when the violence is in progress. I know it seems clinical to poke and prod at our understanding of these issues. The value of understanding the nature of these offenders, their needs in some cases, their motivations in others, and their methods, is to help us prepare to detect, deter, prevent, or defeat them.

Rethinking the statistics

What if we break down the data into less alarming yet more useful chunks? Breaking apart the categories would help us put the different elements of the problem in better perspective, allow our profession to develop a variety of effective preventatives, and encourage firms to tailor their responses to their risks. Let's walk through the numbers while I explain.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) keeps the records for workplace fatalities and injuries. The most recent year for which they have published final numbers is 2009. The details are found in their 2011 publication, Homicide: Occupational homicides by selected characteristics, 1997-2010.  [It shows that over 13 years there were 8,654 homicides in the workplace or on the job.  Of these, 6,512 (75%) were Type I offenses.  Type II offenses numbered 616 (7%).  There were 894 (%) Type III events.  Type IV accounted for 632 (8%) deaths.  Please note, as I lacked access to a precise breakdown of  workplace homicides by type on an annual basis I applied these ratios to the 2009 workplace homicide statistics to approximate their relative impact. See Tanya Restrepo and Harry Shuford's Violence in the Workplace for revised statistics.]

First, how many people die at work or on the job. According the BLS in 2009 the total number of employee fatalities was 4,551. Far and away, year after year, the leading cause of death on the job has been transportation accidents. In 2009 there were 1,795 fatalities in this category. Other categories include “contact with objects and equipment,” “falls,” “exposure to harmful substances or environments,” “fires and explosions,” and “other events or exposures.”

Using the BLS numbers we see that “assaults and violent acts” was the second leading cause of death in the workplace in 2009 but, unbeknownst to many with strong opinions on this topic, this category includes both 542 homicides and 263 suicides.

[click on chart to enlarge for easier reading]

If we break homicides and suicides out of assaults and violent acts category in 2009 then homicide falls to fourth place and suicide becomes the sixth place hazard.

[click on chart to enlarge for easier reading]

According to the BLS between 1997 and 2010, on average 75% of all workplace homicides are perpetrated by criminals, many while engaged in armed robbery. These are called Type I offenders. The remaining 25% are divided between clients, customers, and patients (7%); coworkers and former coworkers (10%); and family, friends, and associates (8%). Offenders in these categories are Types II, III, and IV, respectively. If we regroup the 2009 homicides according offender types then the 124 cases of what most people think of when the phrase “workplace violence” is used (or misused) assume their proper place in relation to other workplace hazards.  [See Tanya Restrepo and Harry Shuford's Violence in the Workplace for revised statistics.]

[click on chart to enlarge for easier reading]

When we break down the Types II, III, and IV homicide into their own columns we run the risk of being asked why these cases attract more attention and funding than other safety hazards. 

[click on chart to enlarge for easier reading]

At this level of granularity I propose the solutions our profession needs to develop and deploy are four in number.

Focused solutions for complex problems

Robbery/homicide is a risk to cab drivers and retail personnel, especially at night. Robbery prevention calls for facilities improvements, physical security measures, changes to business practices, and employee training. A reduction in homicides and injuries during robberies represent a reduction in workplace violence. 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.

The prevention of line-of-duty killings of law enforcement and security personnel calls for specialized safety training and personal protective equipment unlike that provided to employees engaged in non-enforcement work. This has become a well developed science in this segment of our field.

Preventing suicide in the workplace suicide is an extremely complex issue that calls for attention from management, our peers in Human Resources, the Employee Assistance Program, insurers, labor unions – where applicable, and the family members of employees. Suicide challenges our ability to deal with taboo subjects and to avoid stigmatizing those suffering from depression and other illnesses that put a person at risk for suicide.

Workplace homicides perpetrated by coworkers and former coworkers; clients, customers, and patients; or family, friends, and other acquaintances is what most people (and the news media) think of when they hear the phrase “workplace violence.” Yet, even combined, these three categories account for the smallest fraction of workplace deaths and murders. If we focus on solutions for this issue to the exclusion of others we will ignore the great majority of workplace deaths due to assaults and violent acts. Gratefully, there is new help on the horizon.

ANSI Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention Standard

ASIS and SHRM have just completed a collaboration to create the ANSI Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention ASIS/SHRM WVPI.1-2011 American National Standard. I’ve been looking forward to the results of this collaboration so I read the standard with enthusiasm. Considering the size and scope of the project, the involvement of three associations, strict standards criteria, hundreds of participants, and four years of development it turned out pretty well, but it is a mixed bag.

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 strong move in the right direction.

Unfortunately, the new ANSI national standard pays but the briefest of lip service to violence perpetrated by criminals (Type I) which represents 75% of all homicides at work. Likewise violence by clients, customers, and patients (Type II) is given scant attention. I corresponded with a friend and peer who served on one of the standard's development committees. He made a good case that many Type II offenders can be addressed using this model. On reflection I agree. The behaviors exhibited by many clients and customers presents many of the same challenges and opportunities as Type III violence. Still, attacks and injuries by patients in the health care setting - especially in custodial units - remains more like Type I violence. Violence by patients in health care and social services, especially in mental health setting, account for a large fraction of injuries to employees [61% according to Restrepo and Shuford] (and until recently has been the only category of workplace violence subject to specific OSHA regulation). The new standard does not even contain the word suicide, let alone examine the idea that troubled employees sometimes choose to 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. 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.

OSHA has never been more engaged in the issue

In September 2011 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a guidance document titled Enforcement Procedures for Investigating or Inspecting Workplace Violence Incidents CPL 02-01-052 which constitutes what OSHA regards as a "significant change," "the first instruction on the enforcement procedures for investigations and inspections that occur as a result of workplace violence incident(s)." It can be a useful document to those building or maintaining WPV prevention and response programs as one can reverse engineer OSHA instructions to refine the structure of the record keeping elements of a program. This directive specifically and correctly focuses on late night retail and health care & social service settings.

The document outlines OSHA’s "criteria for initiating inspections."

a. Known risk factors to consider, listed by NIOSH in its report NIOSH Current Intelligence Bulletin #57: Violence in the Workplace: Risk Factors and Prevention Strategies (1996).

b. Evidence of employer and/or industry recognition of the potential for workplace violence in OSHA-identified high risk industries, such as health care and social service settings and late night retail (See Section X, C, 1 and 2.).

c. Feasible abatement methods exist to address the hazard(s). [Appendix B]

Enforcement Procedures for Investigating or Inspecting Workplace Violence Incidents offers several scenarios where investigation and enforcement are appropriate, notably in health care and late night retail settings. Strikingly, it describes a case of acquaintance on employee violence (Type IV) as not meeting any of the three criteria for enforcement. It also describes a shooting of employees at a financial services company as meeting some but not necessarily all of the enforcement criteria.

Security practitioners need to be conversant with CPL 02-01-052 because it is the guidance OSHA inspectors will use to determine whether a company that experiences workplace violence injury or death should be subject to enforcement action. It provides some very interesting clarifications under which OSHA investigators might invoke the General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1). It describes a specific obligation for employers in late night retail and health care & social service settings. It does not seem to create specific obligations for other industries, but it is an interesting change of which all security professionals should be aware.

Does Anyone Have Any Numbers?

As we strive to implement effective workplace violence prevention and intervention programs another question looms. 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 crime? Is it possible that organizations have been so busy implementing their workplace violence prevention programs that they have not had time to measure the contribution they make to the security, safety, and well-being of their employees? Those of us who have managed workplace violence cases to their conclusion are happy that our anecdotes are usually about potential harms successfully deflected, but these are not statistics. Will workplace violence prevention programs become a pro forma best practice without regard to their actual effectiveness?

We are all quick to agree that a workplace violence prevention and response plan is a reasonable element of a company’s employee relations policy, but can we prove it? 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.

There is some good news in this area. In 2009 James T. Wassell published a paper titled Workplace violence intervention effectiveness: A systematic literature review, one of the few studies that considers the question. The bad news, he didn't find much high quality evidence either. Of 100 studies, half dealt with Type II offenders in the health care setting. Ten percent discussed homicide prevention in retail establishments (Type I offenders). He recommended more research.

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. We do not have these numbers yet, but we should be careful to collect them.

Why not scare them if it works?

As a citizen, neighbor, and parent there are days when I regret that there is no shortage of security needs in our society. There is plenty of work to be done and I submit that most of it can be accomplished without resorting to alarmism and fear mongering. Still, there are security businesses who seek to leverage fear and create a sense of urgency. I’ve been told by some security professionals – especially in sales – that sometimes fear is required to get executives to act, so alarmist language is used to sell security services, products, and programs. The temptation to leverage fear, uncertainty, and doubt is a hazard every security professional must be careful to avoid. In the long run working to create informed consumers who correctly take confidence in our responses and preparations will be more rewarding and more ethical than fanning the flames of fear.

I remain concerned that we distract employees, employers, and our communities from the larger – and perhaps more tractable – problems of robbery/homicide and workplace suicide when we let the media reinforce the faulty notion that deadly violence at the hands of disgruntled coworkers is common. I have seen too many security professionals - especially those of us selling products, services, or books - misuse statistics like these to promote a response based on fear rather than sober analysis.

The security industry needs professionals who are committed to advancing the interests of his or her enterprise rather than simply reacting to fear, acting as private police, or closing the sale. Do not scare people; not deliberately, not accidentally. Thanks to world events people are already scared; thanks to sensational news reporting people tend to remain scared. When people are scared they frequently act without thinking. Our families, communities, and employers look to those in security profession for confidence in the face of troubling disorder.

Guiding thoughtful responses

Here are a couple more facts to consider. First, despite the media drumbeat to the contrary, workplace homicide has been declining steadily over the past 18 years and is only 50% what it was when the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking in 1992. Second, when we focus only on fatalities we risk losing track of the impact of 41,000 lost time injuries resulting from nonfatal assaults and violent acts by persons. Third, workplace suicides appear to be on the rise.

Referring to the aggregate number of all workplace deaths due to “assaults and violent acts” while discussing only homicides perpetrated by "disgruntled employees” significantly overstates the frequency of what most Americans think of when they hear the term "workplace violence,” “going postal,” or “active shooter.” This sort of overstatement is not unusual in news reporting, but I propose that we in the security profession will have an easier time addressing these important issues if the debate is not contaminated with inflammatory rhetoric.

There is still plenty of work for security professionals – along with our peers in human resources; environmental, health, and safety; and legal – to do in this area. All forms of workplace violence - threats, assaults, injuries, homicides, and suicides - remain important issues to address. Unless the businesses in question are enterprises with all the known high risk factors we do our profession no service by using the aggregated statistics to motivate our peers, employers, or clients. Sooner or later the decision makers will catch on those who rely on hyperbole to move their programs forward.

Imagine the impact security and peer professionals might have if we insist this problem be understood in its true complexity and approached as a set of issues requiring a variety of solutions applied across disciplines. We have much work to do. Let’s be certain we’re using our finite resources – time, money, and good will – where they will do the most good.