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Workplace violence focus of Occupational Keynote

Occupational Keynote

Anaheim, CA – "I cannot emphasize training enough. Train, train, train. Be prepared." That was the message stressed by Virginia Tech Chief of Police and Director of Security Kevin Foust during Tuesday's Occupational Keynote, "Understanding Workplace Violence – On the Job, On the Lookout," at the 2016 NSC Congress & Expo.

The panel also featured Carol Cambridge, CEO of Violence Free in Phoenix; Carri Casteel, president-elect of the Society for Advancement of Violence and Injury Research and an associate professor of Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of Iowa; and Kumani Armstrong, California occupational health official. National Safety Council President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman served as moderator for the session.

Cambridge outlined seven common mistakes she sees among workplace violence prevention programs:

  • Misunderstood/non-existent threats
  • Not handling threats properly
  • Assuming people know what to do
  • No relationship with local law enforcement/police do not meet expectations
  • Disconnect between Human Resources, security, EHS and facilities
  • Minimal or no training
  • Companies do not identify gaps or vulnerabilities

"The only really effective way to have a successful workplace violence prevention plan and program in your company is to get every single person on board," she said.

Cambridge went on to say that workplace violence perpetrators often exhibit multiple red flags and use violence if they feel trapped. She related incidents in which workers who were objects of co-workers' threats neglected to report such cases. Cambridge said reticence might stem from fear of involvement or the chance a threat victim might not be believed.

Foust addressed the April 2007 Virginia Tech campus shooting that killed 32 people. He said that while the university has taken steps to double its volume of campus police and triple its volume of security cameras since that time, it also has worked to transform violence awareness and culture.

Staff, faculty and students undergo what Foust called a "very robust" training program, and the university has a threat assessment team that meets weekly. Virginia Tech's president and senior administrative staff also undergo annual training in National Incident Management System protocol.

Casteel cited 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics data to help illustrate the workplace violence climate. At 16 percent, workplace violence is the third-leading cause of on-the-job deaths behind transportation incidents (41 percent) and slips, trips and falls (17 percent). Violent injuries comprise 6.3 percent of all employer-recordable injuries.

Armstrong discussed the protocol in California, where all employers are required to keep a written injury and illness prevention program. He said common citations were failures to either verify, correct or train on hazards.

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