Workplace violence is violence or the threat of violence against workers. Unfortunately, we hear of terrible incidents everyday on the news, such as school shootings, attempted bombings, drive-by shootings, abductions, and more. There are multiple things that can happen either in or outside of the office. People can be very volatile and we just do not know when that will occur. We can hide our heads in the sand and think that it can’t happen or be proactive and take measures in the event something does occur.
Recognize areas of potential violence. Most real estate/property management companies have personnel who work in the office and many have personnel who also work outside of the workplace. This can mean a variety of scenarios.
- An angry co-worker
- An angry client, which could be a tenant, applicant, vendor or other client
- A person whose service or employment has been terminated, such as an employee, an independent contractor, a disgruntled maintenance vendor, or even an angry property owner
- A person who shows up for a property showing
Analyze all current safety procedures. You may already have procedures in place for unexpected violence but the majority of offices today are not prepared. When thinking of possible problems, consider possible solutions. Use our free safety checklist (download instructions below) to help you evaluate the following.
- Current office security
- Current office safety procedures
- Safety procedures for personnel working outside of the office
Put together a safety plan. Make sure to incorporate the following into your plan and add this to your policy and procedures manuals, your employee manual, or create a separate safety manual, if appropriate. Be sure to include these elements in your plan.
- Adequate office security which could include, but is not limited to:
- A monitored alarm
- Adequate locks or electronic keys
- Video surveillance
- Adequate lighting inside and out
- Office safety guidelines which include, but are not limited to:
- Post required federal and state posters, such as OSHA
- A non-cash policy posted openly in the office, particularly in the reception area or conference rooms
- A warning system and office distress code that all personnel can use to alert others
- A “buddy system” for evacuation if workers feel there are unsafe conditions
- Emergency numbers easily accessed at all appropriate workstations and meeting areas in the office
- Provide clear exit lanes throughout the entire office
- A safety guide for personnel working outside the office, which includes
- A field distress code, known to all personnel
- Policies that require all personnel to:
- Always let someone know where they are
- Keep their cellular devices charged and have a “panic alert” on their phone
- Never enter a property if they sense any danger
- Leave a property immediately if they feel any sense of danger and have a “have to leave excuse” ready
- Keep their vehicles in good working condition and keep valuables locked up or out of site
- Maintain adequate levels of fuel
- Dress professionally and avoid wearing expensive jewelry
- Limit the cash they carry
- Avoid sharing personal information with strangers and keep it professional
- Avoid posting their schedule or whereabouts on social media
- Meet all prospects at properties and avoid passengers in their car
- Avoid showing property after dark
- When showing, personnel should always plan an escape route
Implement training. None of the previous steps will help if you do not train your team – this is a key step. Meet with all personnel to review all the new guidelines and policies. Train personnel to:
- Recognize the early signs of violence and what steps to take
- Avoid posting sensitive information or co-workers’ activities on social media
- Immediately report any suspicious activity, incidents, or actual violence
- Use the warning system and to evacuate if necessary
- Report violence incidents to the authorities as soon as possible
- Seek medical help if necessary
- Attend periodic safety office meetings
There is much more to consider when planning a safety program but I hope this information will get you started. Workplace violence may still happen but planning and training can sometimes avoid an incident or make a big difference on the outcome. Don’t wait, be prepared, and protect your team.
Jean Storms, MPM® is the founder/author of LandlordSource and has been a NARPM® member since January 1993.
Disclaimer: LandlordSource does not represent the article content in this website as legal advice. It is shared information only and up to the reader to use this information responsibly, seeking legal advice as necessary to their business.