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Do threats of workplace violence still top your security concerns?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Last year we conducted a survey asking our readers what risks they were most concerned about. And, nearly half (49 percent) of you responded that workplace violence topped the list.

"With the domestic issues we have in this country, both economically and financially, concerns about workplace violence far outweighs and is more prevalent than threats of terrorism," John Dowd, senior account manager for Kratos Defense and Security Solutions, told SDN.

Well, workplace violence has once again topped the news this week after a man in Albuquerque, N.M. forced his way into a manufacturing plant where his (ex)girlfriend worked, killed two employees and then himself. Four other employees were also wounded in the attack.

The Associate Press reported that it is still unknown how the shooter got past security at Emcore Corp., but his first victim was a person who confronted him on the way into the facility.

Then he went through the building firing shots at several employees and leaving behind a gruesome scene of blood and shell casings across the company headquarters. Responding officers had to step past several victims — one dead and several wounded — as they raced into the building to stop the gunman.

This is certainly one of those events that would be difficult to protect against, regardless of how solid a company's access control and security program. Plus, the gunman is reportedly a former employee, so it's assumed he knew the campus and facility well.

So what are companies to do? How can you possibly protect against someone so bent on harming others?

The article also stated that the woman targeted in this attack had told co-workers she planned to report domestic violence to authorities. But that never happened and that is where the process typically breaks down, said Patrick Fiel, public safety advisor for ADT and the former executive director of the Washington, DC school system, in an interview yesterday (I'll post a longer story for newswire next week).

Fiel said that management often does not do enough to educate employees about issues of workplace violence. While it's likely that most company handbooks reference workplace violence, not enough organizations bother to do any type of follow-up or re-training about the procedures employees should take if they are concerned about a co-worker's safety. Fiel also said it is important for companies to have an anonymous tipline or hotline so employees feel safe reporting suspicions to supervisors.

It's also important for companies to do periodic background checks on all employees, something that Dowd said less than 5 percent of companies do.

And, of course, it's important to follow procedures when employees are terminated. Based on news reports, it sounds like this man pushed his way through security, but it's critical to ensure that terminated employees have their access cards revoked.

And while this is nothing short of a tragic incident, it certainly is a reminder to security professionals about the types of risks they should be addressing on a regular basis. Are you doing enough? I'm curious how many of you regularly conduct workplace violence awareness programs with your employees. You can vote in our Newspoll here.