Auditing Disaster Prevention: An Auditing Process Can Help Employers Use Their Corporate Values to Infuse Respect, Tolerance, and Civility into Employees' Behaviors and Thus Prevent Workplace Emergencies Arising from Violence
Badzmierowski, William F., The Journal of Employee Assistance
Disaster preparedness often focuses our thinking and planning efforts on catastrophic events that involve multiple casualties and numerous sites and have a widespread impact. While it is essential for work organizations to prepare for these large-scale events, it is equally vital to plan and prepare for other types of disasters that can have a major impact on the workplace. In addition to the inherent damage they cause, these other types of disasters can contribute to the creation of workplace environments that make us more susceptible to the large-scale disasters we fear most.
In exploring the concept of preparedness, it is helpful to consider the impact of a disaster on a company, its employees, and its customers. These impacts can differ dramatically--what one company might consider a disastrous situation could actually be considered merely a nuisance by another. Indeed, limiting our focus to the concept of disaster preparedness may prove to be more confusing than enlightening. It may be helpful to broaden the topic and instead think in terms of emergency preparedness.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (2003), an emergency is "any unplanned event that can cause deaths or significant injuries to employees, customers, or the public; or that can shut down your business, disrupt operations, cause physical or environmental damage, or threaten the facility's financial standing or public image." We can apply this definition to natural disasters, accidents, emergencies caused by human error or omission, and crises caused by individual actions in the workplace. Such individual actions can include ongoing harassment, conflict, intimidation, incivility, disrespect, aggression, and even violence.
It is essential that employers plan and prepare for the kind of crises caused by individual actions in the workplace with the same gravity and determination given to large-scale disasters. This is especially true of violent actions. In the United States, an average of 33,000 workers are assaulted on the job every week (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health 2004), and workplace homicides ranked among the top three work-related fatal events in the years 1992-2003 (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2004). A 2004 survey by the American Society of Safety Engineers found that the possibility of workplace violence is a substantial concern among respondents, but nearly three-quarters of them noted that their employers had not conducted a formal workplace violence risk assessment (Sullivan 2004).
Prevention is the best strategy in planning for any emergency. Emergency operation plans often do not include preventative action requirements because prevention isn't a measurable objective typically found in strategic plans. We can count the number of incidents, stress-related sick days, and dollars spent on recovery efforts; it is more difficult to count the number of incidents that did not occur or the number of dollars that were not spent due to solid prevention planning efforts.
Planning effective strategies to prevent, prepare for, and address incivility, aggression, and violence involves much more than creating a checklist of activities. Ideally, such planning includes infusing values into a workplace culture to help develop and maintain a productive, positive environment. Infusing values is not an easy task--there is no single factor that can be added to a workplace to make it immune to conflict or crisis. While a company's values, mission, and policies can provide a roadmap to creating a desired workplace atmosphere, these important elements can be lost or become meaningless without a structural application.
An audit tool that provides baseline information through an initial assessment and tracks progress over time can best support values-based emergency prevention efforts. Utilizing the categories of respect, service, and safety, an audit can help companies organize their policies to promote values and clarify expectations for all employees. …