In September 2013, a TSA screener at Los Angeles International Airport was arrested a few hours after resigning for making threats against the airport on the anniversary of 9/11. In December of that year, the FBI arrested an avionic technician at Wichita Airport for plotting a suicide attack using an improvised explosive device.
These are just a couple of examples of employees who became a significant threat in the workplace. However, workplace threats are not limited to “home-grown” terrorists, radicalized by Islamic militarism. It also includes the careless employee, who unintentionally downloads a virus that infects your company’s computer network, or the disgruntled employee who acts unprofessionally with a customer. You may remember the JetBlue Flight Attendant, who became a YouTube sensation, when he quit his job by yelling a few choice words to passengers, grabbing some beers for the road and using the plane's emergency chute to exit the aircraft.
While the flight attendant's dramatic departure ended comically and without injury – many episodes of an employee suffering a meltdown do not always end as peacefully. As the number of workplace violence episodes continue to rise, they pose a growing safety and legal concern for employers in the aviation and transportation industries.
The best way to protect against workplace violence is to take proactive measures to ensure a safe workplace environment for your employees. This will also reduce your company’s legal liability should an employee’s actions cause injury to another person and/or result in significant damage.
Employers should consider implementing the following tips to be better prepared and protected:
- Smart Hires – Your job application should contain questions about an applicant's criminal history – always do a background check, and verify an employee’s references
- Written Policy – Part of your Employee Manual should include language for a zero-tolerance policy towards workplace violence. Steps should be taken to ensure all employees are aware of, and understand this policy.
- Prompt Reporting – Require prompt, accurate and written reports of any violent incidents – whether these resulted in personal injury, property damage, or not.
- Responsive Action – Any incident of workplace violence should be met with appropriate and swift action that is consistent with the written policy in your Employee Manual.
- Education – Provide safety and security-related education and training to employees, supervisors and human resources personnel. These should include training in basic leadership skills: how to set clear standards of conduct and performance, recognizing and addressing violent behavior, assessing threats, and defusing confrontational situations.
- Employee Assistance – When appropriate, provide employees confidential, professional help for identifying and helping them deal with workplace problems and personal issues.
- Have A Plan – Develop a plan that makes clear what procedures should be implemented should a violent workplace emergency occur – including escape routes, notifying authorities and reporting procedures.