Thursday, February 14, 2013

“an unstable and dangerous employee”

“an unstable and dangerous employee”

The articles referred to in this post are just further proof that OSHA is beginning to take the issue of workplace violence seriously. Since most government agencies have voluntarily "opted in" to OSHA regulations, there are significantly more sites that OSHA has to contend with.

With the renewed debate about gun control and the sensationalism of gun violence in the news, there is a spotlight on workplace violence. You can bet that Connecticut Occupational Safety and Health Division (CONN-OSHA) will (or should) be investigating the Sandy Hook school shooting.
Note: The Connecticut State Plan applies to all public sector employers other than the Federal government employees. Federal government employees are covered by Federal OSHA, which also exercises jurisdiction over most private sector employers in the State of Connecticut.

The Fallacy of Gun Control

 I know that this is not a political blog, it is about safety and the education there of. When I see information that is incorrect or based on junk science, I am going to call them out to better educate you.For the record, I am for responsible, legal ownership of guns without restrictive burdens, infringements of rights, or government interference (I am against gun control). My position on this, does not influence my stance on safety.
  So what is The Fallacy of Gun Control? The following was written by Edward Paltzik on "The American Thinker" at
Bad Guys Will Get Guns No Matter What
...Across the Atlantic, the failure of the United Kingdom's gun control program was recently displayed during the 2011 London riots when unarmed shopkeepers and homeowners were forced to watch marauding gangs of powerful young men loot and destroy while overwhelmed police failed to contain the raging throng. Ironically, in a most uncivilized turn of events, civilized citizens in the United Kingdom live in a creepy Orwellian surveillance state in which dystopian fiction has given way to the nightmarish reality of "might makes right."

Closer to home, our broken neighbor Mexico is a failed state in which drug cartels kill government officials with impunity, where beheaded and bullet-ridden corpses litter highways, and respectable citizens cower in fear. Mexico has among the strictest gun control laws in the world.

Back in the United States, Chicago, subject to some of the most stringent gun control in the nation, observed a timely milestone this week: its 500th murder of 2012. Conveniently, the fanatically anti-gun media ignores the daily body count in the combat zones of urban America, where violent young men slaughter each other daily and gangs terrorize with impunity. Mass shootings like Newtown are much more suited to the hysterical modus operandi of today's "journalists." As Chicago demonstrates, gun control is an abject failure precisely because it only affects the good guys who need guns to defend against attacks by criminals who have access to guns regardless of gun control laws.

A Workplace Violence Program Based on the Fallacy of Gun Control

 So how does this educate me as a safety professional? You need to understand, that taking the same approach to workplace violence as gun control advocates will not meet OSHA's requirements for a workplace violence program and will not protect workers. 

So what would a workplace violence program based on gun control advocates policy look like? Simply put it would prohibit anyone (employees, customers, contractors, venders, etc.) from carrying on their person, in their vehicles and belongings, whether legally or illegally, any weapon (gun). 

If that is your workplace violence program, it is NOT going to work. A deranged, mentally unstable employee, spouse of an employee, random person, whoever, can show up at your facility with a gun and start shooting. Most of the time that you hear about an employee shooting, it is after the triggering event. The headlines always read, "he came back with a gun."

I am not saying that you need an armed militia at work. You do not need a minuteman brigade to answer a threat of workplace violence. What I am saying is that you need to have evacuation routes, meeting places, roll call, etc. You need bulletproof glass (think 24 hour urban minimarts), locked doors, employee buddy system, monitored alarms, cc video, appropriate to the hazards that your facility faces. You also need the "what if" back up plan for the unforeseen.

They are criminals and mental patients, they are not responsible gun owners.

The majority of people who commit mass shootings are not responsible gun owners, they are criminals. They are using a gun that they illegally obtained. Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, murdered a legal gun owner and stole her guns to commit the murders. The legal gun owner just happen to be his mother. This fact in no way diminishes her death or legitimizes his possession of the guns used.

He was (by all indications, although I am nor a psychiatrist and did not examine him), a severely deranged and mentally ill individual. (Finally, back to safety.) This being said, an Employee Assistance Program can be part of your workplace violence prevention program. This is also a good employee benefit that will help attract better employees.

The police are there to protect us.

The most recent mass shooter that caused all of California to be on high alert, Christopher Dorner, was an ex-Los Angeles police officer. It appears that (the following quote is taken from the Facebook page, "We Are All Chris Dorner") Dorner was "the victim of a manhunt and smear campaign...fired from the LAPD for seeking to expose corruption within it."

If your workplace violence program is to call 911, it is NOT going to work. First, you need to assess the potential for workplace violence. You need to take into account the random and unforeseen. Then you need a written plan, all employees need to be trained in it (where to go, what to do),and it needs regular review and updates.

This leads to another issue that you as a safety professional may have limited ability to impact; office politics, unjustified or retaliatory firings, hostile work environment, and adverse working conditions. This being said, you still need to bring these issues to the attention of management, HR, or someone who can correct these issues. Chances are, if a place is this bad to work at, you won't be there very long.

Now, on to the articles....

OSHA complaint filed by employee charging Brooks is a danger to LCB workers

Nevada workplace safety officials are investigating a complaint alleging that Assemblyman Steven Brooks, recently arrested for allegedly threatening Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, is “an unstable and dangerous employee” at the state Legislature.

Chris Davis of the Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which has the authority to investigate workplace-safety complaints and take action against employers, notified Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Rick Combs of the complaint in a Feb. 4 letter asking for a report on how LCB is handling the situation involving Brooks, D-North Las Vegas.

Combs responded to the letter on Monday, saying the LCB and Legislative Police have taken a variety of actions to ensure employees and others in the building are safe.

The request for an investigation of safety hazards at the Legislature states, “There is an unstable and dangerous employee that has been allowed to remain at his building despite many of our colleagues' concerns regarding his frightening behavior, history of violence, known threats against other employees, arrests, psychiatric commitments and multiple recent instances of brandishing deadly weapons.”

The unidentified employee who filed the complaint said that the issues haven't been resolved, “even though many of us have continued to express that we do not feel safe coming to work.”

The complaint was filed under NRS618, which says every Nevada employer “has a duty to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards.”

The response by Combs came just hours before Assembly Majority Leader William Horne announced that Brooks had been banned from the building pending resolution of the situation — a move that helps resolve the complaint. Combs said officers met Brooks at the Reno-Tahoe Airport on Monday night when he arrived from Las Vegas and served him with notice he was no longer allowed in the Legislative Building.

In his response to OSHA, Combs said the case isn't like most other complaints about an employee being a danger to co-workers.

“It is important to recognize that Assemblyman Brooks is an elected official and not an employee of the LCB or of the Nevada Assembly,” he wrote. “Therefore, he cannot be fired, suspended or otherwise disciplined in the same manner as an employee.”

Brooks understands that some employees are concerned about reports of his behavior and voluntarily agreed to certain measures to ease those concerns, Combs said. Those, according to the letter, are that a Legislative Police officer accompany him when he is in the building. His key-card has been deactivated so he can't enter the Legislative Building after hours without contacting Legislative Police.

“Assemblyman Brooks further allowed the legislative police officers to take whatever precautionary measures they requested to ensure that he is not armed when he enters the building,” the response states.

For employees most worried about Brooks, panic alarm buttons have been installed at their desks, Combs said.

Because Brooks announced on the Assembly floor that he planned to take a three-week medical leave, Combs said he doesn't expect Brooks will be in the building during that time.

In addition, he said that following Brooks' most recent arrest on domestic violence and obstructing police charges, “we will need to evaluate whether any additional measures are necessary to protect employees and others in the Legislative Building.”

Brooks was first arrested before the session began Feb. 4 for allegedly threatening a public officer — Speaker Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas. After that, he came to police attention again in an incident at his grandmother's home involving a sword, which police confiscated. He was ordered held for psychiatric evaluation after that incident, then released. The latest domestic violence charge came early Sunday after an incident involving his estranged wife.

The Select Committee charged with investigating Brooks' conduct has promised to move quickly. After adopting rules that gave its chairman, Horne, the power to bar Brooks from the building, Horne did just that. But Brooks again ignited concerns among employees and others in the building by flying to Reno and saying he intended to go to the Legislature on Tuesday.

As of late afternoon, he had not shown up there. Police indicated that if he did, he would be arrested on suspicion of trespassing.

Understanding the Bizarre...

...So, have we ever seen anything like this in Nevada’s history?

No. But there’s a caveat. Is odd behavior by politicians all that rare, and does it matter?
First, how do we define odd? During Nevada’s territorial period, legislator Herman Bien began packing a revolver in response to criticism from a local editor. That Bien also was a rabbi made it even more unusual. Eventually, the criticism stopped and so did Bien carrying a gun, thereby eliminating his chances of becoming the official rabbi of the NRA.

One day in 1914, Senator Key Pittman of Nevada had too much to drink. The Nevada State Journal reported that he walked down Virginia Street and hit the U.S. Marshal, a state senator, a Nevada Supreme Court justice, a deputy sheriff and a Republican leader. Finally, he punched someone who had had enough and Pittman landed on Virginia Street. After this front-page news, Pittman went on to be elected to the Senate five more  times. Nevadans knew he drank too much and became erratic, but didn’t seem to care.

Politicians are human beings, although too many of us don’t think of them that way. What they do privately really shouldn’t be our business unless it violates the law, or affects or reflects upon their public lives. That former Senator John Ensign was unfaithful to his wife means something in the context of his professions of devout Christianity and judging others, but nobody really cared much about his private life until it became a public spectacle and led to a variety of legal issues, culminating in his resignation just ahead of the Senate Ethics Committee coming after him.

When he was in Carson City, which is famous for extracurricular activity during and sometimes after legislative sessions, then-Governor Jim Gibbons texted a woman other than Mrs. Gibbons 860 times in one month. Whether he liked to dally mattered less than whether he instead should have been tending to state business—which, in his case, would have been the worse option. Before he was governor, he faced accusations of trying to assault Chrissy Mazzeo—and, as was largely ignored at the time, defended himself by claiming he was merely helping an obviously drunken woman to her car.

Granting that Gibbons espoused a platform that claimed to respect family values and personal responsibility, his personal failings matter less than what they said about his judgment and his commitment to his job. Instead, though, the controversy over Mazzeo may have helped him: it diverted attention from his family reportedly hiring an illegal immigrant as a nanny and housekeeper, which was hurting him politically, to the silly question of whether he was set up.

However the Steven Brooks saga ultimately unfolds, it shows that some personal behavior matters, especially when it spills over into the public or political, or may break the law. He isn’t the first lawmaker to dislike one of his leaders and won’t be the last. That he allegedly threatened Kirkpatrick makes it the public’s business and right to know, the legislature’s duty to act and everybody’s duty to get him the help he needs.

A final thought...

Do not forget, workplace bullying is also a form of workplace violence. You do not have to injure someone, threats, harassment, destruction of property are all forms of workplace violence.

Keep in mind that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has to be taken in to account when dealing with a violent or potentially violent employee. A safety issue can very quickly turn in to a discrimination lawsuit. Even if a violent or potentially violent employee is deemed a protected employee under ADA, you can not simply just fire him, but you still have an obligation to protect your other employees.

Thank you for reading.

1 comment:

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