Customer Service and Creating a Culture for a Safe Workplace
Last in a four-part series that will discuss superior customer service and employee safety: strategies for dealing with low-risk interactions as a foundation to ensure success with high-risk issues.
By John A. Haley
Senior Consultant, Baron Center, Inc.
To date, we have discussed the importance of planning, practice and preparation as they relate to employee safety. We used a simple formula – the LAND model – to help employees achieve positive results and resolutions when dealing with low risk 1interactions. We also focused on the critical subject of recognizing and responding to potential threat situations, particularly during high-risk 2interactions. Now, we end this series by highlighting specific workplace behaviors, practices and protocols which can enhance employee and workplace safety.
The importance of training in the area of safety cannot be over emphasized. Start by ensuring your employees know how to deal with low-risk interactions and then progress to providing them with education about how to handle themselves during high-risk situations that may put them in harm’s way.
Consider the three Americans who recently prevented the loss of lives on a French train by subduing the gunman. They chose to be proactive and do something tactical rather than waiting for further damage to take place—drawing from military training that helped prepare them for their decision-making and actions.
Your employees certainly don’t have to be trained to the standards of the U.S. Armed Forces, but there are many tactics that will serve them well should they ever find themselves in an active aggressor situation. Various strategies are taught, but the one I like best is:
- Evade (tactically remove yourself and others from the situation)
- Barricade (prevent the aggressor from entering a room or area)
- Overwhelm (use your greater numbers to your advantage)
Obviously, those actions are listed in order of preference. The best course of action is always to physically get away from an aggressor, but when that’s not possible, barricading may be an option (if employees are aware of which doors open inward), and the last resort would be working together to overwhelm the aggressor. The latter is what the men on the train did, as they determined that to be the best course of action.
How can you ensure your workplace is as safe as it can be? Here are some suggestions:
- Encourage employees to practice awareness everyday, both at work and in their personal lives. This needs to be a habit.
- Develop plans for different threat levels—specific plans that allow for situational flexibility. You can’t predict everything, but when employees know their duties and responsibilities, they’ll be better equipped to respond appropriately.
- Make sure employees know the procedures and expectations that have been established in the workplace, including the availability of resources and proximity of help.
- Educate and update employees on entries, exits, fire alarms, phones, security, roles, etc., so they know these things well in advance of the actual emergency.
- Stress the need for planning and practice, and preach the principles that offer the best chance of safe outcomes: prevention, team responsibility, coordinated response, scenarios, etc.
- Ensure employees know the warning signs of a credible threat—narrowing of focus (threat made or intimated), ramping up behaviors (research and planning), and leakage of intent (obsessions and fixations), and understand the options available to prevent and counter aggression, such as early warning communications and removing themselves to a pre-defined safe zone.
- Craft policies, procedures, mission and value statements, and unifying messages that have employee wellness and workplace safety as a common theme. Use a holistic approach to create a culture that places a premium on safety and awareness, and preventing and reducing violence in the workplace.
The process of training employees about safety may seem overwhelming at first, but it doesn’t have to be. Football provides a great analogy: all teams begin the season in training camps, working on the basics, not immediately playing in the Super Bowl. In your workplace, that equates to getting everyone on the same page with respect to dealing with low-risk situations before moving on to those that can be more critical. Conditioning your employees prepares them for the real tests they might face either at work or in their personal lives.
- Low-risk situations are those that do not present an imminent danger. They are situations that are uncomfortable, but there is very minimal indication of potential threat or danger. This would include people who are frustrated and moderately angry, but not aggressive in nature or demeanor; they can be controlled through communication and generally follow all instructions. But, improper handling can worsen the situation. ↩
- High-risk situations are those where the danger potential is apparent through threat indicators. This may include assaultive language, direct or indirect threats, physical posturing or intimidation, failure to comply with requests to calm down, etc. This also may include active threat situations where aggressive action is imminent. This would include people who are very angry, not able to control their emotions or actions, and are physically intimidating through their behavior. They can be on the fringe of assaultive behavior or the assault is actually happening. High-risk situation include an actual or potential physical assault (using hands or feet) or an assault with weapons. ↩