Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Training for Violence at Work

What kinds of dangers are your employees at risk for at work?  Have you properly considered workplace violence?  Certainly some jobs come with a potential inherent danger of violence, such as those working in police forces or security.  However, workers in offices and those that directly serve the public may also be at risk.  Today we will look a little at what one organization, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), is doing (and not doing) to tackle this problem.  As always, please feel free to leave a comment or opinion in the area below the post.

Training for Violence at Work

There is one group of workers that are currently at risk, agents of the IRS.   According to a study by the Department of Treasury, agents that worked directly with the public were not trained in how to handle a variety of situations which could arise.  The study was prompted by a suicide attack on an IRS building in Austin, Texas in 2010.  It was believed that the audit he was undergoing by the IRS may have been a contributing factor in the attacker’s instability.  The Treasury Department has a program known as the Potentially Dangerous Taxpayer (PDT) program.  This program designates that some individuals may be prone to violence and could be deserving of extra caution when dealing with them in person.  The Austin attacker is one individual that would likely have been identified within this program.

Define The Threat

How does your organization define the threats that workers may be facing?  Within the IRS, those PDTs identified have certain characteristics:

--- Individuals have committed violence against IRS employees in the past
--- Individuals that have physically threatened violence
--- Stalkers
--- Individuals that are members of groups that protest and promote violence against the government
--- Individuals what have committed violence against other government officials.

Report The Threat

Do you encourage your employees to speak up when unusual and possibly dangerous events occur?  At the IRS, they take this seriously.  The study by the Treasury Dept. identified a series of actions that have led to increased risk to IRS agents in the past.  These actions include:

--- When employees that received threats, they refused to believe the threat was credible.
--- Employees that were threatened believed they had calmed down the taxpayer, so therefore no reporting was necessary.
--- Employees were not intimidated by the threats.
--- Empathized with the plight of the taxpayer, understood why they were threatening them.
--- Employees did not understand that they were being threatened.

In all of these cases, proper reporting of a potentially dangerous situation was not reported.  This left future IRS agents at risk of harm because they did not know the risk existed.

Combat The Threat

At your organization, are your employees trained to deal with a threatening situation?  The first step in combatting potential threats to your employees is training.  The IRS is looking to expand training of the PDT program to ensure the safety of their workers.  One tactic IRS agents use in confronting PDTs is to invite them into an IRS office to speak with them.  By inviting the individual in, it draws them out of their comfort zone where they would be compelled to act.  IRS agents and Revenue Officers may bring their own armed escorts or seek police protection when encountering individuals identified by the PDT program. 

Stay safe out there and consider what your organization could learn from the IRS.

And remember all of you Human Resources professionals: Be Human... Be a Resource... Be a Resource for Humans.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are by the author Trevor Stasik, and do not necessarily reflect the views of any employer or any other organization. Please note, this information is based on my understanding and is only to be used for informational and educational purposes. Do not take what I am writing as advice. Seek your own legal counsel and/or see a tax accountant before making business or personal decisions. The author of this post makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

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