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Published: January, 2020; Vol 16, Num 8

 

Answering Your Questions About Workplace Violence

LIUNA General
Secretary-Treasurer
and LHSFNA Labor
Co-Chairman
Armand E. Sabitoni

During the Fund’s latest webinar, “Workplace Violence in Construction: Recognition & Prevention,” Fund staff fielded specific questions from LIUNA signatory contractors and other LIUNA affiliates. Below, we’ve collected answers to some of the most common questions we’ve received on the topic of workplace violence.

“Workplace violence is a broad, complex problem that can include physical violence, multiple forms of harassment and workplace bullying,” says LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni. “Addressing these issues in the construction industry starts with treating them like any other serious workplace hazard. That means planning ahead, training workers and empowering workers to speak up when there’s a problem.”

LIUNA District Councils, Local Unions, signatory contractors and other LIUNA affiliates can watch the full webinar on workplace violence by going to our homepage and clicking on Webinar Archive.

1. On the topic of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment, how can I tell if what I’m saying is offensive?

First, let’s acknowledge that it can be difficult to gauge whether you’re saying something that could come across as offensive. Different people can have very different definitions of what offends them. You’ll often hear someone say “I didn’t mean anything by it” in response to offending someone. This statement focuses on your intent rather than the impact of your words. It’s important to shift your mindset to also take into account how your message was received.

Depending on the situation or the person, someone may not tell you directly that they were offended. Pay attention to their reaction, especially their body language. It sounds simple, but thinking before you speak and erring on the side of caution with people you don’t know very well can go a long way. For a different perspective, take some time to observe other interactions around you to see how words are being exchanged and received.

2. Active shooter training focuses on “Run, Hide, Fight.” How should this be approached in construction, where jobsites are often open spaces that are more accessible than office buildings?

Construction sites can present additional challenges in an active shooter situation depending on the phase of work. We recommend employers treat those situations like any other potential workplace hazard, which means planning ahead and mitigating risks where possible, such as by identifying and securing access points onto the site. Employers should also train workers on what to do if such a situation arises.

A construction site is hardly a traditional office setting. Employers should seek to raise employee awareness of the “Run, Hide, Fight” mantra. That includes discussion on how each individual phase may be easier or more difficult depending on their particular site. Is the jobsite an open area in the new construction phase? Are there even buildings to hide in or materials to use as barricades until help arrives? If faced with the unfortunate circumstance of needing to fight, are there materials at hand to distract or engage the shooter (e.g., two-by-fours, concrete blocks or masonry bricks, fire extinguishers, etc.)?

3. What should employers do when an incident outside of work affects duties on the job? At what point should law enforcement get involved?

First, if there is an imminent threat of danger, we recommend calling 911 immediately. Saving lives must be the priority, regardless of protocol. In other cases, there’s unfortunately no universal best answer. Employers will generally be well-suited by making decisions based on how the conduct impacted or continues to impact the business and the other workers involved.

4. Are workers allowed to conceal carry a firearm on a worksite?

There’s no clear answer here, as laws vary from state to state and may vary further from jobsite to jobsite. About half of the states in the U.S. give workers the right to store a firearm in a locked personal vehicle in the company’s

parking lot. These laws generally have the following requirements:

  • Lawfully possessed by the worker
  • Concealed from view
  • Locked in a personal vehicle (e.g., in the trunk or glove box)
  • Since state laws are constantly changing, check with your own state before putting together a policy

We recommend workers also take time to review their employer’s policies regarding firearms on the worksite.

LHSFNA Resources

The LHSFNA’s Workplace Violence Prevention manual, Workplace Violence toolbox talk and Workplace Violence Health Alert all provide additional information on this topic. To order, visit the Fund’s online Publications Catalogue by going to www.lhsfna.org and clicking on Publications. If you have additional questions about workplace violence we didn’t answer here, please reach out to the Fund at 202-628-5465 or by emailing lifelines@lhsfna.org.

[Nick Fox]