As employees around the globe return to work following the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever that organizations have a workplace violence/active assailant program in place. Following months of heightened stress, anxiety, and fear, organizations need to have procedures in place to detect and resolve concerning behavior in employees returning to workplaces.
The ASIS International Workplace Violence Prevention and Active Assailant—Prevention, Intervention, and Response (WVPI AA) Standard is now available. A revision of the 2011 WVPI Standard with a new Active Assailant Annex, the WVPI AA Standard delivers vetted best practices that organizations can use to help build workplace violence programs or to improve upon ones that are already in place.
We sat down with Securisks’ Michael A. Crane, Esq., CPP, chair of the ASIS WVPI AA Technical Committee, to learn more about this revised Standard.
Q: Why did you choose to become involved with this project?
A: Every business revolves around its people. When you’re developing a workplace violence prevention and intervention program, you're trying to protect your people. There is no organization that is immune from workplace violence. It’s important for organizations to get this right.
Developing workplace violence programs is something I've been involved with for many years. I’m a lawyer by trade. While I first approached workplace violence scenarios from my legal training, I grew to appreciate the collaboration required between so many different kinds of professionals in dealing with these threats. Organizations need input from legal, human resources, security, facilities, and potentially behavior analysis from psychologists outside of the organization to determine the best approach.
I'm one of the original members of the ASIS Professional Standards Board, when it was first formed in 2000. I oversaw the creation of the original WVPI Standard in 2011 and remained involved when it came time to revise the Standard in 2020 and develop the Active Assailant Annex.
Q: Give me an overview of the Standard. How does the Standard approach the prevention and intervention of workplace violence incidents?
A: It's not just about the response component, or what to do after something happens. This Standard offers recommendations specifically toward preventing this kind of violence. We’re looking to help organizations establish the right policies, procedures, and training so that their employees understand when they need to raise their hand and report upon red flag behavior to prevent a workplace violence incident from occurring.
The Standard also contains a new Active Assailant Annex. Active assailant incidents add an extra dimension to workplace violence programs, with additional protocols organizations need to have in place.
Compared to a standard workplace violence incident, such as a threat or a fight, the actions of an active assailant may result in a crime scene. If there is a crime scene, employees might not be able to access their work area. Organizations need a public information person to speak to the press. You also have to have a family notification/reunification center. You must be prepared to interact with the police department and a number of government agencies.
Compared to 2011, this new revision takes into considerations lessons learned since that time, updating terminology so that it’s incredibly relevant to what is going on in today’s world. Organizations that already have a program in place should still take a look at this newly revised Standard to make sure that they are following updated best practice.
Q: From warehouses to schools to office buildings, there are many different kinds of workplaces and facilities. To which of these locations do the Standard's recommendations apply?
A: They apply to all of them. The Standard was first developed in 2011 from a 30,000-foot level so that it would apply to everybody. It’s industry- and sector-agnostic. The program's approach can be tailored to any kind of setting, be it a school, a facility, or an office environment. You name it.
The key idea is that you have policies and procedures established for trying to prevent these kinds of incidents. It's about employees understanding concerning behaviors and saying something about them when they occur, and then the organization having the processes in place to manage that potential threat and try to mitigate any actual acts of violence from occurring.
Q: Why should facility managers trust the recommendations made here?
A: ASIS International is an internationally recognized, ANSI-accredited standards developing organization. This Standard was developed through a multidisciplinary approach, taking into account the input of almost 150 individuals. It wasn't created in a vacuum of security managers. We engaged human resource professionals, law enforcement, fire and life safety professionals, behavioral scientists, psychology academia, and more. There was a host of expertise that helped create not just the 2011 Standard, but also the revision that we are now releasing.
The Standard does not look at workplace violence from one angle. Our recommendations were developed in a wholly consensus-driven process, ensuring that we capture all views across the board from our participating experts.
Q: Are there any WVPI Standard use cases or success stories you’d like to share?
A: The 2011 version of this Standard was very well received and adopted quite extensively. From the conversations I’ve had with security managers, I’d wager that a majority of the workplace violence programs in existence are based on this Standard.
Not only is the Standard used by organizations in implementing their own workplace violence programs, but it is also used by associations in the development of industry certification programs. I’ve also spoken with representatives of government agencies who have used it in the formation of policies.
Q: How much of an investment is required to implement these recommendations into workplace violence and active assailant programs?
A: The biggest commitment required is time and training. There are no special tools or devices of any sort that organizations need to purchase to follow these recommendations. The investment is about time with your people and establishing the right policies and procedures in your organization and having your employees understand the program.
It's something that every organization should be doing. People are every organization's biggest assets. Preventing workplace violence is a program that every organization should have in place.