Integrating traditional safety, human resources, and risk management policies and procedures with post 9/11 “best practices”
By Cathi Marx, ALCM, COSS, CHS – V, and Celene Adams
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the distinctions between workplace safety, human resources and security have become blurred. As professionals in these fields, we now contend with a greater number and variety of workplace threats than ever before. In addition to planning for traditional workplace risks, we must forestall new threats of pandemics, terrorism, e-bombs and cyber crime. To do so, we need to blend traditional human resources policies and procedures with post 9/11 safety and security practices.
Today’s heightened need for preventive and reparative safety, human resources and risk management strategies in the workplace must occur within the context of what some experts refer to as “cultural jihad” – long-term, declared war against Western culture. The types of threats that many organizations are now vulnerable to are deliberately perpetrated, continual and impersonal, as opposed to accidental, sporadic and/or catalyzed by personal relationship.
Challenges to planning effective protections for our employees, clients and communities in such an environment are numerous: We must become aware of and prepare for the proliferation of new and projected challenges across industries, as well as identify particular industries at risk and coordinate prevention and restoration measures among all affected teams within organizations.
The first step toward this goal is to convince safety, risk management and human resources professionals to ensure employees hired into jobs that are sensitive in nature are vetted appropriately and thoroughly.
Historically, unless a potential candidate was being considered for a traditionally security-sensitive job HR professionals did not apply security-related questions to hiring practices or on-the-job protocols. Challenges occur as we implement “best practices” when reviewing the backgrounds of all job applicants while continuing to prevent workplace harassment in diverse workplace populations.
This is both a broad and specific discussion, one that is beyond the scope of this article to detail. However, the general answer is consistency. Once we understand the many new issues underlying various common workplace situations, it becomes clear that consistency is key in designing policies and procedures that apply to everyone at all times. For example, subjecting all potential hires and employees to the same background check procedures ensures against discriminatory hiring while also strengthening security. For more information on hiring practices, visit:
Identifying businesses at risk
More cohesive security and safety measures in the workplace are also facilitated by isolating which particular industries are at risk and to what degree.
Yet doing so is growing increasingly difficult in this environment. While the aviation, energy, food and water distribution, finance, telecommunications and chemical manufacturing industries remain obvious targets for attack, so-called “soft” targets, such as schools and hospitals, are increasingly vulnerable to compromise, as are any locations in which large numbers of people gather in concentrated areas ─ shopping centers, sports venues, hotels and amusement parks, for instance.
Again, this is an extensive discussion well documented elsewhere. However, general guides to assessing organizational risk include the CARVER & Shock Assessment Tool and the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standard. Respectively, these tools define organizational characteristics that create susceptibility, estimate impact on the target system and identify security issues related to chemicals. Visit the following links to access these tools:
What businesses can do
Traditionally we have concerned ourselves with conventional loss-control methods and then develop our emergency action plans on typical scenarios
- fire, earthquake, and workplace violence including crimes against property. Today, however, we need to incorporate post 9/11 best practices into our existing policies and procedures, for example including shelter-in-place and lockdown procedures in our emergency action plans. Our hiring practices must include background screening, validation of employment history, reference checks and behavioral interview techniques. We must plan for the unthinkable when we design our communications and travel strategies, evacuation plans and safety drills. We must be prepared to handle minority discrimination issues, cyber attacks, e-bombs and health pandemics, and we need to systematize credential validation for visitors.
Further, we need to incorporate techniques as outlined in the methodology of “Crime Prevention through Environmental Design” into our workplace security planning. This concept uses natural surveillance, territorial reinforcement, natural access control and target hardening to manage employee and visitor controls in building design and landscape management techniques. Visit the following link for more detail:
Our job is no longer solely to protect our employees from harm within the workplace; it is to be able to predict and reasonably anticipate hazards perpetrated against the workplace and our community. In an environment of increasing, ongoing threats to employee, client and community safety, we must integrate human resources policies, safety and risk management protocols into our emergency action and crisis management plans.
Cathi Marx is Vice President of Risk Management Services with Aspen Risk Management Group. Contact Cathi at: 619/294-9863, or via
the Web at: www.aspenrmg.com.
Celene Adams is a San Diego-based freelance writer.
Contact Celene at: 619-825-6062, or the Web at www.celeneadams.com.