Spot the Signs: Identifying Active Threat Red Flags in the Workplace

Spot the Signs: Identifying Active Threat Red Flags in the Workplace
Today, more than ever, employers and Human Resources (HR) leaders have a responsibility to keep their staff safe from violence and active threats. Many times, an active threat comes without warning, but there are instances when someone’s behavior might indicate the potential for violence.
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that nearly 2 million employees report being victims of workplace violence each year.
Use the following information to help keep your employees safe from an active threat on the job.

Potential Active Threat Indicators

To prevent a violent act, you must be able to identify behaviors that signal a risk of violence. While there is no specific way to predict that a person will become violent, be alert to problematic behaviors that, in combination, could indicate the potential for violence. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the following are indicators of potential violent behavior:
  • Direct or veiled threats of harm
  • Intimidation, harassment, bullying or other inappropriate and aggressive behavior
  • Many conflicts with supervisors and other employees
  • Bringing a weapon to the workplace, making inappropriate references to guns or developing a fascination with weapons
  • Showing a fascination with incidents of workplace violence, making statements in support of using violence to resolve problems or identifying with perpetrators of workplace homicides
  • Statements indicating desperation (over family, financial and other personal problems) to the point of contemplating suicide
  • Drug/alcohol abuse
  • Extreme changes in behavior
Each of these behaviors is a sign that something is wrong. None should be ignored.

Threatening Behavior

Often, a violent act is preceded by a direct threat, such as “I am going to kill you." In other instances, threatening behavior (without a direct threat) could suggest the potential for violence. Threatening behavior could be:
  • Intimidating or harassing remarks that don’t contain a threat but can make a work environment hostile.
  • Intimidating, harassing or aggressive behavior that creates fear.
  • Irrational or inappropriate behavior (e.g., name-calling, using obscene language).

Responding to Threats

All threats and threatening behavior should be responded to. Ignoring unacceptable behavior can result in the escalation of a problem. HR should encourage all employees to report all threats and threatening behavior to their leader/supervisor and HR department, or to local law enforcement if necessary. Providing the following chart to all employees can help them understand the steps they should take to assess, deescalate and/or report threatening behavior in the workplace.

Stopping an Active Threat Before It Happens

HR is responsible for developing workplace violence prevention programs and policies. It is also responsible for training on preventing and responding to workplace violence as well as on reporting incidents. Every effort your workplace makes to educate employees on spotting violence indicators and reporting them is one step closer to safety. For more information on the various products available to purchase for your workplace, browse the QuickSeries® library of safety guides, including: Workplace Violence: Staying Safe at Work