Agricultural Safety Program

                                                        Reducing the risks in the agricultural workplace!




                                      Violence in the Workplace:

                                      A Common Sense Approach to Prevention

                                      (Summary of Safety Breakfast Meeting held Wednesday, April 8, 1998)



                                      WAR IN THE WORKPLACE


                                      Is your company turning into a battlefield? Are violent incidents between employees becoming

                                      routine? Probably not, and that's great, noted Alan Scott, featured speaker at a recent Safety

                                      Breakfast Meeting at California State University, Fresno. But specialists in the field of

                                      workplace violence warn that incidents are increasing. In just one recent year in the U.S., for

                                      example, there were more than 110,000 reports of violent incidents, resulting in 750 deaths and

                                      $4 billion in lost production and legal fees.


                                      After just one incident of violence, Scott warned, the atmosphere in a workplace can be changed

                                      dramatically. For example, after a violent incident such as a screaming or shoving match between

                                      two employees, morale in the work area can plummet, and bring production down along with it.


                                      The good news is that employers can do something about it, said Scott, who works as branch

                                      manager for American Protective Services, a national firm specializing in workplace security.

                                      Scott provided an outline of steps companies can take during a recent Safety Breakfast Meeting

                                      hosted by the Center for Agricultural Business (CAB). Safety breakfast meetings are held

                                      monthly and address current safety issues faced by employers in the agricultural and

                                      agribusiness arenas.


                                      PRO-ACTIVE APPROACHES HELP PREVENT VIOLENCE


                                      It is the business of Scott's firm to help companies develop policies and programs that will help

                                      prevent violent confrontations in the workplace. Prevention strategies can't guarantee the peace,

                                      but they can greatly reduce the likelihood of such an incident occurring, Scott said.


                                      An initial understanding of three key concepts will enable an employer to effectively address the

                                      problem of workplace violence, Scott said. They are as follows:

                                            Knowledge - Company leaders must understand the potential for violence in their


                                            Liability - Leaders must be aware that legal sanctions or lawsuits can come as a result

                                            of violent incidents.

                                            Financial - A violent incident will inevitably lead to one kind of financial loss or



                                      DEVELOPING A POLICY APPROACH


                                      Once the key concepts of workplace violence are understood, company leaders will see the need

                                      to develop a policy approach of violence prevention. Elements of an effective violence prevention

                                      plan include the following:


                                          1.Policies - Develop a comprehensive, workable plan, a "living" document; have legal

                                            council review to avoid legal issues after the fact.

                                          2.Major players - Determine composition of the response team: should include a

                                            company officer, human resources manager, industrial physiologist, and emergency

                                            services personnel.

                                          3.Coordination - Major players should understand and support each other's roles.

                                          4.Training - Learn to identify danger signals; ignoring warning signs only increases the

                                            strength of the violator and violence potential.

                                          5.Tests - Mock drills will enhance response team's reaction and intervention skills

                                          6.Discipline - Swift disciplinary action can diffuse current and future problems

                                          7.Parameters - Understand your work force and develop policies to serve workplace



                                      SPOTTING THE SIGNALS OF POTENTIAL VIOLENCE


                                      Learning to identify the signals of potential violence among employees is a key to preventing the

                                      violent incident. Following are some of the signs to watch for and some of the issues that can

                                      affect a worker's behavior:


                                            Mood swings

                                            Family problems

                                            Financial problems

                                            Use of controlled substances

                                            Use of alcohol

                                            Negative attitudes

                                            Sudden change to poor work habits

                                            Out of character actions


                                      PRACTICAL PREVENTION SYSTEMS


                                      There are a number of simple, concrete steps an employer can take to prevent violent situations

                                      from occurring. Many of these involve simple controls over the interaction of employees and

                                      non-employees. Following are some suggested methods of controls:


                                          1.Plant access

                                          2.Visitor entrance

                                          3.Vendor entrance

                                          4.Employee movement

                                          5.Electronics - alarms, closed-circuit TV, door controls

                                          6.Identification systems - photo and color coordinated

                                          7.Office entrance restrictions

                                          8.Furniture placement

                                          9.Ingress/egress points

                                         10.Secure areas (safe rooms)


                                      While efforts designed to prevent violent confrontations at the workplace do not guarantee they

                                      will not occur, they can greatly reduce the chances, Scott reiterated. Considering the costs if it

                                      were to happen should encourage most employers to take at least some steps toward prevention.

                                      One of those steps could be to consult American Protective Services or another company

                                      offering similar services. American Services is headquartered in Oakland, California and has a

                                      branch office in Fresno.


                                      UPCOMING SAFETY BREAKFAST MEETING


                                      The next Safety Breakfast Meeting hosted by the Center for Agricultural Business will be

                                      Wednesday, May 13, 1998, from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. in the CATI Conference Room at the

                                      California Agricultural Technology Institute, 2910 E. Barstow Ave., Fresno.


                                      Discussion topic will be "A Review of the New NIOSH Respirator Standards." Speakers will be

                                      Mike Castro, sales representative for the Moldex Co., and Ken McCollum, regional sales

                                      manager for Jorgensen & Co. Persons planning to attend are asked to RSVP to CAB at (559)