The last few weeks have demonstrated that no one of us is totally secure, regardless of where we are or what we are doing. The recent, tragic events in El Paso and Dayton are painful reminders of that. While these were not workplace violence incidents, the killing of two managers of a Walmart store in Southaven, Mississippi (Memphis) the week before was.
Most responsible warehouse and distribution center managers are well aware of their responsibility for protecting their facilities and their contents. Logistics Service Providers must be particularly cognizant of their obligations to product their customers’ products, as well as their own employees and equipment. As crime rates have risen in many (if not most) major metropolitan areas, the need for, and price of this protection has increased dramatically. Millions of dollars are spent each year on fences, guards, cameras, alarms, fire protection, secure entrances, and other safety precautions.
Other risks, such as natural disasters are more difficult to predict and prepare for; but at a minimum, plans should be in place to protect people and product as much as possible in the event of floods or storms.
Unfortunately, the most concerning risk is one that while still rare, seems to be on the increase lately – workplace violence. According to the National Safety Council in 2017, workplace assaults resulted in 18,400 injuries and 458 deaths. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health research divides workplace violence into four categories: criminal intent, customer/client, worker on worker, and personal relationships. In other words, to a great extent we must protect ourselves from each other. The Mississippi Walmart incident for example, occurred right after an employee was terminated. He left the store, only to come back with a gun with which he killed the two managers involved in his firing.
Every supply chain manager needs to address this issue. You should train your employees and have an emergency plan in place. Periodic mock drills can be very helpful; and above all, have a zero-tolerance policy aimed at guns or violence. To the extent possible, have accessible escape routes and hiding places.
But how do you keep the violence out of your workplace? Background checks, drug testing, and credit checks are a necessity; but beyond that, the responsibility lies directly with the managers. Increasingly, people are taking their anger to work, and managers must learn to pay more attention to their workforces. There are any number of potential warning signals, i.e. sickness, illnesses with no means to pay the bills, domestic violence, heavy drinking, and other financial pressures. Any one of these or other situations may cause an employee to break. One suggestion consultants make is well worth considering. If an employee’s performance is declining, try to find out what the underlying issue is. Instead of a reprimand or termination, possibly a counselor could be a better solution. If firing is necessary, bring in more security and keep up with what is going on with the person after he/she is gone. For example, if on the anniversary of the employee’s termination, he/she is still unemployed, bring in more security on that date,
There is a lot going on in our industry today, and many managers are stretched to the limit. If you do not have enough time to devote to understanding and relating to your workforce effectively, hire yourself a good human resources manager to help protect your human assets.
Along with you, every manager in your organization, should be trained to remain alert, aware, and attentive to the people around them. Depending on your resources, it might be a good idea to bring in professional help to do this. It could turn out to be money well spent.