According to the National Safety Council, there were 882,730 exposures to workplace violence in 2017, and those events resulted in 18,400 injuries and 458 fatalities that year. In 2016, reported workplace assaults were 16,890 and fatalities were 500.
We all are aware of the events that happened at Henry Pratt Co. in February and of the event at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center in May. These were tragic moments for our industry and our country, and despite how different their individual cases were, they have highlighted something we do not talk about much: workplace violence. That needs to change.
After the events of the Henry Pratt shooting, I and my fellow editors at WWD tried our best to cover the event with a compassionate mindset. I wrote about that viewpoint in my March editorial letter. Now we feel it is time to have a larger conversation, especially after seeing the results of the survey we conducted with our audience about workplace violence.
A total of 242 respondents across the audiences of WWD, its sister publication Water Quality Products and its supplement Storm Water Solutions completed a survey about current security measures in their respective workplaces. These locations ranged from outdoor and indoor job sites to water and wastewater plants and office spaces.
Alarmingly, 38% of those who responded said they did not have safeguards in place at their place of work. Additionally, 35% of respondents said their employer never speaks with them about safeguards and 47% said they never practice an evacuation plan—even though 25% have them. These are baseline items for preventing violence in the workplace, and a large portion of the industry seemingly is unaware of its employer’s policies and procedures.
That is not to say that workplaces are not safe. In fact, 27% of respondents said they have security cameras, 9% have lockdown drills and 24% use administrative background checks. These are great things to have, but without practice and use, they can become irrelevant and unimportant. It is tantamount to installing advanced metering infrastructure, capturing the data, and never reviewing it to improve processes.
So, I am starting this conversation right now in my editorial letter and extending it with the feature starting on page 12 because I found that in responding to our own survey about our office, I was just as alarmed with my answers as I was with our respondents’.
That prompted me to bring it up with our human resources department, and I encourage you to do the same, even if your employer regularly has safety meetings.
It it falls on all of us to take steps to plan for these events, prevent what we can and protect each other if that moment comes. It will take consistency to keep these things up to date and relevant, but we cannot do that until we have a talk.