Workplace Violence: Understanding, Preventing & Responding

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates 2 million employees per year are victims of workplace violence.

Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other dangerously disruptive behavior that occurs at a place of business. It can affect employees, clients, and/or customers. Workplace violence is a complex and widespread issue, steadily gaining attention from the public, mental health experts, and law enforcement professionals.

Several types of workplace violence events have emerged over the past few years including: incidents involving offenders who have no relationship with the victims or the establishment, those where the offenders currently receive services from the establishment, episodes involving current or former employees acting out toward their present or past place of employment, or when domestic disputes between an employee and the perpetrator spill over into the workplace.prevent-workplace-violence.jpg

Proper training and preparedness is the first step to preventing workplace violence in your place of business. Many corporations throughout the United States have instituted programs to help prevent violence in the workplace. These efforts can go a long way toward minimizing the threat at your place of business.

Business owners and managers should incorporate the following items in their workplace to create a safer environment for their staff and those who come to their place of business:

  • Teach staff what is considered unacceptable conduct from co-workers and visitors to the business.
  • Teach staff what actions to take if they witness or are subjected to workplace violence including the early warning signs of potentially violent situations.
  • Create effective steps to follow in response to a workplace violence incident the same way you would teach staff to respond to fires, natural disasters and the like
  • Encourage staff to report all incidents that appear to be workplace violence
  • Build a crisis procedure for responding to workplace violence and practice with drills on a regular basis the same way you practice fire drills, earthquake drills and such
  • Pre-screen potential employees thoroughly (including background checks)
  • Enforce workplace rules and review regularly with staff
  • Offer an employee assistance program that includes mental health care
  • Require that all visitors and vendors who come to the establishment are registered by photo copying their ID before being allowed access
  • Use bright, effective lighting
  • Have an adequate amount of staff on site at all times
  • Establish clear internal and/or external lines of communication to avert and respond effectively to a crisis
  • Change business routines – criminals and ex-employees study or are already aware of the daily routines of your business – which enables them to know when best to strike. Changing routines on a regular basis will make this harder for someone to plan an attack.
  • Provide drop safes when large amounts of cash are exchanged throughout the day and train staff to use the safe continuously leaving only a minimal amount of cash accessible and apply signage indicating that staff on duty does not have access to safe
  • Immediately file a restraining order against any person(s) who have posed a threat to persons or property at your place of business – even if it was just a verbal threat
  • Some additional items to consider if possible are; hiring security staff, adding security cameras and/or alarms, installing panic buttons in discrete (but easily accessible) locations, and entries protected by codes, cards or keys only
  • If your staff does delivery work, running any type of errands or visits to clients/customers’ homes you should also implement the following; Instruct your employees not to enter any situation they feel is unsafe, equip your employees with cell phones or radios to be able to contact you or seek help if necessary, allow at least 2 staff members to travel together whenever possible, and to carry minimum money.WPV Shot.jpg

To make Workplace Violence Prevention effective in your place of business; learn the key elements to prevention in your particular field of business and thoroughly investigate your business’ weaknesses and strengths in regards to any possible threats.  Understand that if  an employee/coworker begins acting differently;  determining the frequency, duration, and intensity of the new behavior can be helpful.

Specific behaviors of concern that should increase awareness include depression, threats, menacing or erratic behavior, aggressive outbursts, references to weaponry, verbal abuse, hypersensitivity, diminished work performance and offensive commentary or jokes referring to violence.

Not surprisingly, relationship or personal problems can carry over from home to the workplace. Certain signs that may help determine if an employee/coworker is experiencing such difficulties include disruptive phone calls or texts, anxiety, poor concentration, unexplained bruises or injuries, frequent absences and tardiness, and disruptive visits from current or former partners.

Given that human behavior is not always predictable, no absolute way exists to gauge where an individual may be on the pathway toward violence. If the individuals display potentially threatening behaviors of concern, vigilant employees should report these directly to a supervisor or vigilant supervisors should take notice.  Employees generally do not want to be viewed as undermining their peers and, therefore, wait until they are certain that a situation is serious before reporting it. Unfortunately, at this point, it may be too late. This stresses the importance of awareness on the part of employees. Staff must be trained so that when behaviors of concern occur, a “red flag” is raised and appropriate action is taken. Creating a climate of trust is the key element of employers and business owners to preventing workplace violence.

⛔ Don’t Invite a Burglar into Your Home for the Holidays! ⛔

 

Are you unknowingly enticing potential thieves to damage your property or break into your home?

While you want your home to be a welcoming environment for family and friends, you might be surprised how common habits might be inviting to criminals, too.

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Whether you are going away for the Holiday Season or simply going to work, you can deter burglars from choosing your home with these tips:

Make It a Point to Keep Everything Locked Up

While you probably lock your vehicle and the main points of entry into your home, you may overlook locking your windows, fence gates, garage or garden shed from time to time. An unlocked gate allows a thief access to your backyard, away from the view of your neighbors. Once inside your yard, a thief has more freedom to peer through windows and patio doors. Access to garages and garden sheds also gives a thief more tools to use to break into your home. For example, a ladder in your backyard could make it much easier for a criminal to enter your home from the second story—where windows are more likely to be unlocked. Tools such as drills, hammers, and crowbars are also kept in many sheds and garages and can be used to break windows and open doors. Even if a thief is unable to get into your home, your backyard likely has valuable items such as a barbeque grill or bicycle.

Maintain Your Landscape

The way in which your home is landscaped and maintained affects your risk for theft. For example, large, untrimmed shrubs and bushes can give criminals a place to hide—especially at night. Be sure to keep hedges and bushes cut back so that the majority of your yard can be easily seen from a number of vantage points. On the other hand, shrubs and bushes can deter theft as well. Thieves are less likely to attempt to break into windows with landscaping underneath. Small bushes can provide an obstruction to otherwise easily accessible windows.

Light Up Your Property

Hiding under the cloak of darkness makes sneaking around someone’s home much easier. Keep your home’s exterior well illuminated with motion sensor lighting. This type of lighting can be easily found in hardware stores or ordered online. Because the lights are activated by movement, you don’t have to worry about lights staying on night and day. If you choose to install motion sensor lights, make sure they illuminate your backyard, the sides of your property, and driveways or pathways. When installing this type of lighting, the higher the light is mounted the better, so that criminals cannot reach them to damage them.

Consider Using a Security Alarm

Security systems come with a variety of features to suit almost any budget. From basic systems that sound off loud alerts when an armed point of entry or window is breached to high-tech systems that allow for surveillance from a tablet or smart phone, there is likely a system that offers the best features for your needs. Not only is the loud sound of a security alarm a major deterrent, many systems alert your local police department that your security has been compromised in some way. Furthermore, signage such as picket signs and window or door decals from your security system company can deter criminals as well. Many homeowners and renters insurance policies offer discounts for homes armed with security systems.

Be Mindful of Your Trash

Even what you throw away for curbside pickup can make you a target for theft. Perhaps you took advantage of Black Friday deals after Thanksgiving and scored a great price on a large  flat-screen television. After unpacking a television, gaming console, or computer, many people leave the boxes at the curb for recycling or trash pickup. Unfortunately, most packaging for expensive electronics shows pictures, brand names and specifications of the products in plain view. Placing boxes at the curb makes your home a target for thieves looking for electronics to steal. When unpacking electronics, break down the boxes and packaging instead and place them in black trash bags.

Make your home look occupied

When you will be away for a long time, set timers on lights in your house to turn off/on at the normal times you would use them when you are home. Timers are sold at hardware stores or online for usually under $20 each. Also, be sure to have someone collect your mail, news papers, packages or any items that are normally delivered to your home. A pile of items at your front door or in your mailbox indicates you are away.

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Other Precautions

  • Never leave keys under doormats, flowerpots, mailboxes or other “secret” hiding places — burglars know where to look for hidden keys.
  • Large displays of holiday gifts should not be visible through the windows and doors of your home.
  • Keep a detailed inventory of your valuable possessions, including a description of the items, date of purchase and original value, and serial numbers, and keep a copy in a safe place away from home — this is a good precaution in case of fires or other disasters. Make a photographic or video record of valuable objects, heirlooms and antiques. Your insurance company can provide assistance in making and keeping your inventory.
  • Be a good neighbor. If you notice anything suspicious in your neighborhood, call 9-1-1 immediately.
  • Mark your valuables with your driver’s license number, phone number, or birthdate with an engraver. Marked items are harder for a burglar to dispose of and easier for police to recover.
  • Form a Neighborhood Watch Group and work with your neighbors to improve security and reduce risk of burglary.

We wish you safe travels this season and a very Happy Holiday!

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💻 📬 📦 Online Shopping – Stay Safe & Keep It Simple 💻 📬 📦

 

Now that we are in the midst of the Holiday Shopping Season, we are trying to find ways to complete our gift lists while avoiding the hassle of crowded shopping centers, parking lots and all of the other external stressors that subtract from the joys of gift giving. Many people have chosen to bypass these hassles all together by doing all of their shopping online.

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While shopping online is convenient in so many ways, it also has it’s own set of precautions that we need to consider. Anything device connected to the Internet, including smartphones and tablets need to be protected – especially during heavy use periods, like the holidays. Scammers and cyber criminals can easily target shoppers.

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Being a safe and secure shopper starts with careful safeguards. Think about the consequences of your actions online before you act and enjoy the conveniences of technology with peace of mind while you shop online. 

Here are some great tips to help you find the ease of internet shopping to be a safe experience as well:

  • Use Familiar Websites rather than shopping with a search engine. Search results can be rigged to lead you astray. If you know the site, chances are it’s less likely to be a rip off. We all know Amazon.com and that it carries everything under the sun; likewise, just about every major retail outlet has an online store, from Target to Best Buy.
  • Beware of misspellings or sites using a different top-level domain (.net instead of .com, for example)—those are the oldest tricks in the book. Yes, the sales on these sites might look enticing, but that’s how they trick you into giving up your info!
  • Look for the Lock and NEVER buy anything that doesn’t have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed—at the very least. You’ll know if the site has SSL because the URL for the site will start with HTTPS:// (instead of just HTTP://). An icon of a locked padlock will appear, typically in the status bar at the bottom of your web browser, or right next to the URL in the address bar. It depends on your browser.
  • Conduct research when using a new website for purchases, read reviews and see if other consumers have had a positive or negative experience with the site.
  • Personal information is like money so value it and protect it! When making a purchase online, be alert to the kinds of information being collected to complete the transaction. Make sure you think it is necessary for the vendor to request that information. Remember, you only need to fill out required fields at checkout.
  • Be on alert for emails that might get us to act quickly and click through links and open attachments. Be wary of emails about problems with your credit cards or an account or the status of online order. Criminals know we are price sensitive when shopping online. Exercise caution when seeing and ad offer where the discount is way below normal.
  • Don’t Tell All! No online shopping store needs your social security number or your birthday to do business. However, if crooks get them, combined with your credit card number for purchases, they can do a lot of damage. The more they know, the easier it is to steal your identity. When possible, default to giving up the least amount of information.
  • Use safe payment options! Credit cards are generally the safest option because they allow buyers to seek a credit from the issuer if the product isn’t delivered or isn’t what was ordered. 
  • Read return and other polices so you know what to expect if the purchase doesn’t go as planned.
  • Limit the type of business you conduct over open public Wi-Fi connections, including logging on to key accounts, such as email and banking. Adjust the security settings on your device to limit who can access your phone.
  • Keep a clean machine by keeping all web-connected devices ‒ including PCs, smartphones and tablets ‒ free from malware and infections by running only the most current versions of software and apps.
  • Reinforce your online accounts by enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, security keys or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device. Your usernames and passwords are not enough to protect key accounts like email, banking and social media.
  • Make your password tough! A strong password is a sentence that is at least 12 characters long. Focus on positive sentences or phrases that you like to think about and are easy to remember (for example, “ILove2MyNewCar!”)
  • Having separate passwords for every account helps to thwart cyber-criminals. At a minimum, separate your work and personal accounts and make sure that your critical accounts have the strongest passwords. 
  • Check your statements regularly and don’t wait for your bill to come at the end of the month. Go online frequently during the holiday season and look at electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts. Make sure you don’t see any fraudulent charges, even originating from sites like PayPal. (After all, there’s more than one way to get to your money.) If you do see something wrong, pick up the phone to address the matter quickly. In the case of credit cards, pay the bill only once you know all your charges are accurate. You have 30 days to notify the bank or card issuer of problems, however; after that, you might be liable for the charges anyway.

packagesxmas.jpgNow that you know the safest ways to shop, you’re only concern should be what is the best gifts to give your friends and family! If your loved ones are as concerned about internet security as you are, we recommend an online security tool.

Click here to see the top 10 Antivirus Software Programs of 2016!

Click here to see the top Identity Theft Protection Services of 2016!

Have a safe and wonderful Holiday Season!

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Tis the Season for a Home Inspection: DIY Tips for a Safe and Secure Home

Experts say that a little home maintenance goes a long way and saves you money.  For example, trimming away tree branches near or touching your roof can extend the life of your shingles.  This example and many other items also happen to be the minor issues that can make or break the value of your home.  Did you know that poor home maintenance can signify lack of pride in ownership, which can lower the value of your home and legally is a breach of your home insurance contract?

Contractors recommend seasonal detailed inspections of your home along with a regular routine of simply paying attention to the little things. (Regionally the things you need to check may vary.  Most property insurance companies offer regional checklists for homeowners.)

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Here is a recommended list of things you should check out on your home regularly as well as seasonally:

Check your roof for leaks or damage 

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Check for things like peeling shingles or holes.  Be sure to check around vents, skylights and chimneys carefully to be sure there are no gaps or leaks.  If you discover any issues, resolve them as quickly as possible.  If you can’t resolve immediately, patch the area to protect from further damage while you await repairs.  Also, if you discover damage, be sure to check the interior of your home in the same area for ceiling damage

Keeping the air moving in your attic is a must!

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If you don’t have a ridge vent, be sure you keep your gable vents open year round for proper ventilation.

Keep your gutters clean!

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Clogged gutters and drain pipes can also result in damage to your home. Make sure downspouts drain away from your foundation and are clear of debris.

Replace your Air Conditioning filters!

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Filtering the air is only a small part of the necessary filtering for home maintenance.  Not only should you replace your Air Conditioning filters once a month but also check your dryer ventilation and stove ventilation to make sure passageways are clear without obstruction and working properly.  Check these both internally and externally.  Most of us don’t think about this until a problem occurs, but with light maintenance you can extend the life of your unit and avoid possible home damage from flooding units.  Keeping your dryer vent clean saves energy and extends the life of your dryer as well.

Detectors are critical! 

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Ensure that all your smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers are in good working order.  Replace batteries as needed.

Regularly check your plumbing 

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Feel the pipes for leaks and looking underneath.  If you find a leak, do your best to prevent damage and repair.  Often pipes spread or loosen over time as your home shifts and most of us don’t think to check this on a regular basis.  You will be surprised at the minor leaks you can discover under a sink.  And, though a leak can be minor, the damage can be major over time.  While checking your plumbing, be sure to check the hose connections for your washing machine and dishwasher and the tubing connections for your ice maker.

Check for Mold! 

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In the bathrooms, be sure to check shower and tub surrounds for any signs of damage or mold as well as your toilet supply/shut-off valve.

Window Seals Needed! 

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Regardless of the season, drafty doors and windows cost money! A large enough draft invites damaging rodents into your home, but even a small draft can suck away energy costing you hundreds! Replace seals as needed.

No Holes Allowed! 

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Check the exterior of your home for cracks or holes in your siding or paint.  Replace caulk immediately if you see areas where it has cracked or fallen away leaving a gap without a seal.  Also, when you discover any damage – verify that it is caused by wear and tear instead of rodents.

Know Your Water Heater Condition! 

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Check your water heater thoroughly to verify that it is in proper running condition without leaks.  At least once a year you should drain the water heater and remove sediment from the bottom of the tank.  This will also extend the life of this very expensive appliance.

No Pests Allowed! 

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Check your home for termites and other rodents by doing a full walk around inspection of the exterior of your home and also checking your attic if able.  Signs would include droppings, heavy dust piles, and holes. Remember, never store firewood within 2 feet of your home and always store it at least 18″ above ground to prevent termites.

Check the Sockets! 

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Electrical fires remain one of the main reasons for total home losses due to house fires.  Prevention is key and takes little effort.  Walk around your home to check all of your outlets for proper hot, neutral and ground.  Check all electrical cords to ensure there is no damage.  Remove outdated electric air fresheners from outlets and do not leave active air fresheners in outlets when not in use.


Staying on top of regular home maintenance helps you avoid costly repairs or worse! Scheduling seasonal inspections is a great way to start doing what you can to prevent hazards and expenses that you don’t need while also making your home a better place to live.  Now is the time to get your home back to 100% so you can relax and enjoy your family and friends!

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