Tornadoes Bring Awareness to Other Safety Concerns

July 13, 2011
Greg Haag
Two pairs of hands clasped together.

The devastating tornadoes that have ripped through parts of the Midwest and the southern US this spring have been catastrophic, the images heartbreaking. When incidents like this occur, they bring to the forefront our own tornado safety precautions. How many of us would know what to do if tornado sirens were to go off and we had seconds to react? At home, we’d probably run to the basement or some other safe place. What about at work? Would you know what to do? Where to go?

Many organizations in the Milwaukee area are running tornado drills in reaction to the recent tornadoes they’ve seen on the news. These drills are an excellent proactive approach to safety, so employees know what to do when the sirens go off. Though the potential for violent weather is a threat every spring and summer, we think those things happen in other places. “Tornadoes only happen in Kansas or Oklahoma. They never happen here,” we think. So we put off taking precautions.

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The same holds true with workplace violence. When the “it will never happen here” mentality creeps in, those safety precautions drop off the radar until a reminder, like a major news story, suddenly makes workplace violence prevention a higher priority. In reality, every organization should look at workplace violence prevention with more urgency because workplace violence can happen anywhere, at any time.

Just because fire alarms, water sprinklers, and other safety precautions are in place doesn’t mean that all safety concerns have been or are being met. CPI contends that violence occurs along a continuum of behaviors, and many of these behaviors are exhibited at workplaces every day: discourtesy, disrespect, intimidation, harassment and bullying, retaliation, verbal assault, and physical aggression. If kept unchecked, these behaviors can escalate. Do you know what policies and procedures your company has in place to protect workers from violence? Most importantly, are there any? Research shows that only 30 percent of businesses have policies regarding violence in the workplace.

Proper precautions can save lives when the tornado siren alarms. Similarly, with the proper workplace violence prevention training in place, employees have a greater opportunity to mitigate situations before they escalate to a point where an employee becomes violent. Organizations that offer training to prepare, prevent, and respond to challenging behaviors highlight their commitments to safety.  

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