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Can HR ever truly prepare staff for emergencies?

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HC Online | 13 Oct 2015, 07:25 AM Agree 0
Last week a recruitment worker was stabbed in front of her colleagues and clients in her Sydney CBD office – HC speaks to an employment lawyer about what HR can do to prepare employees for such violent incidents.
  • Bernie ALTHOFER | 13 Oct 2015, 10:48 AM Agree 0
    It does seem that there occupational and work related violent incidents are occurring more frequently, although there may be a lack of direct data that will support media reporting. Any incident involving violence can result in a physical or psychological injury, not to mentiion a financial cost to all involved. Despite the physical presence of threats, reports indicate that 'no-one was was injured' often mean that no physical injury occurred.

    Can organisations prevent such incidents from occurring? In all reality, it does seem that there is a risk that these type of incidents may continue to occur. Can staff be prepared? Organisations may have a raft of policies and procedures on how to respond to specific incidents e.g. bomb threat etc. However, when it comes to acts of physical violence, not all organisations may have the capacity to respond, or to respond well. Managers and workers may very well attend training or read the policy but when the chips are down, flight or fight may kick in. How individuals respond may have some influence on the outcome of the situation.

    No-one goes to work expecting to be subjected to a violent act, and how individuals respond in such situaitons may very well influence the outcome. For example, being able to provide basic life support, knowing how to call for emergency services, how to stay calm etc may all need to be practised. Conducting risk assessments to determine the level of risk exposure may provide some 'guidance' as the amount type of training provided e.g. a state of readiness. Planning not only for the probability of a violent incident is important, along with the immediate response. In addition, managers and workers need to know and understand post incident procedures e.g. psychological support, court attendance, injury management and return to work, and even media management.

    Unfortunately, in some situations, an employee may have already been exposed to a violent incident, and a repeat exposure may lead to a workplace claim. Understanding past exposure and responses may be an important issue in work allocation, rostering etc, just as it will be an important issue in determining the level of support that will be provided to that employee.

    Just because an incident has not happened, it does not mean that there is no likelihood of a violent incident occurring.
  • John Wayne Legg - | 14 Oct 2015, 07:36 PM Agree 0
    There are actually many things that can be done to prepare staff for an emergency such as violence in the workplace. It all depends on how much of a priority it is to a particular organisation, and whether they are prepared to invest in the relevant training.
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