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Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Incident Investigation and Reporting

Reporting Incidents

The primary goal when developing a reporting procedure is to make sure it encourages employees to report all incidents, even minor ones. Some companies use hotlines. Some arrange for a member of a team to take the calls, usually a specialist from Human Resources or Security. Other companies require employees to report incidents to their supervisor (or to any company supervisor), who in turn reports these incidents to Human Resources or Security.

Credibility for any reporting system will be dependent upon whether reports are handled quickly and effectively. Word spreads quickly among employees when a report is made and nothing is done, when a report is handled improperly, or when the allegations are not treated confidentially. Therefore, before a reporting procedure is announced to employees, ensure the staff who will be responding to reported incidents are trained and able to handle any reported incidents.

Incident reports should be reviewed on a periodic basis to provide feedback on the effectiveness of existing intervention strategies and prevention efforts.

1. What is the primary goal when developing a violence prevention reporting procedure?

a. It should make sure only physical violence incidents are addressed
b. It should ensure zero tolerance policy for all incidents
c. It should encourage employees to report all incidents
d. It should require employees to report serious incidents

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Threat Incident Report System

Your company policy may require employees to report all threats or incidents of violence. If you institute such a policy, you must be ready to deal with the situation. The report will be used by the company to assess the safety of the workplace, and to decide upon a plan of action. The following facts should be included in a threat incident report:

  • Name of the threat-maker and his/her relationship to the company and to the recipient.
  • Name(s) of victims or potential victims.
  • When and where the incident occurred.
  • What happened immediately prior to the incident.
  • The specific language of the threat.
  • Any physical conduct that would substantiate an intention to follow through on the threat.
  • How the threat-maker appeared (physically and emotionally).
  • Names of others who were directly involved and any actions they took. How did the incident end?
  • Names of witnesses.
  • What happened to the threat-maker after the incident.
  • What happened to the other employees directly involved after the incident.
  • Names of any supervisory staff involved and how they responded.
  • What event(s) triggered the incident.
  • Any history leading up to the incident.
  • The steps which have been taken to ensure that the threat will not be carried out.
  • Suggestions for preventing workplace violence in the future.

Take a look at a sample threat incident report.

2. Which violence prevention plan report is used by the company to assess the safety of the workplace, and to decide upon a plan of action?

a. The Threat Incident Report
b. The Monthly Inspection Report
c. The Employee Safety Report
d. The VPP Evaluation Report

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When the Violent or Threatening Incident Occurs

When an incident occurs, bring together all the necessary resources, which may include help from outside the company.

  • When a serious threat is made, consult the sources available to you to help evaluate the level of risk posed by the threat-maker.
  • When appropriate, obtain fitness-for-duty evaluations of employees exhibiting seriously dysfunctional behaviors at the workplace.
  • Maintain an internal tracking system of all threats and incidents of violence.
  • When a threat has been made or an incident has occurred, evaluate the situation and, if warranted, notify the potential victims and/or police.
  • The employer must respect the privacy rights and confidentiality rights of employees during any investigation.

Investigating Incidents of Violence

I can't work here anymore. I'm afraid he may actually kill one of us!

The supervisor hears the details of the incident that is causing the employee to feel threatened. Now the supervisor has to do something. The incident can't be ignored. It must be reported. Once reported, the members of the incident response team (along with the supervisor) have to look into it.

3. When an incident occurs, bring together all the necessary resources including _____.

a. OSHA compliance officers
b. help from outside the company
c. the news media
d. corporate competitors

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Types of Investigations

When an incident report is received, one of the first important decisions to make is to decide what type of investigation might be required. There are three basic types of investigations in a violence prevention program:

  • Threat assessment investigation - in response to behaviors that have the potential to become violent in some way.
  • Administrative investigation - in response to violent behaviors that might result in administrative action.
  • Criminal investigation - in response to possible criminal behavior.

Your decision on which type of investigation is required will depend on whether the facts as presented indicate possible criminal behavior. Since arriving at a decision generally involves discussion with employee relations specialists and possibly law enforcement personnel, it is imperative to coordinate efforts fully with these departments ahead of time.

Threat Assessment Investigations

Threat assessment investigations differ from administrative or criminal investigations in that the purpose of the threat assessment investigation is to provide guidance on managing the situation in a way that protects the employee.

Many cases involving threatening behavior can be handled expeditiously and effectively by a supervisor with the assistance of one or more members of the company's incident response team. The security or law enforcement representative on the company's team will ordinarily assess risks, often in consultation with the Employee Assistance Program and employee relations staff, and make recommendations for appropriate strategies and security measures to protect employees. However, it may be helpful for the company's planning group to identify experts in threat assessment ahead of time, in case a situation requires more expertise than team members can provide.

Gathering information: It is also a good idea to work out ahead of time who will gather which types of information on an individual who makes a threat. Multiple sources of information need to be consulted to better understand the person's behavior.

In some cases, the company's incident response team can collect current and reliable information (which would include an investigative report) and then consult with a threat assessment professional to develop options for managing the situation. In other cases, the company's incident response team uses a threat assessment professional to conduct the initial investigation, assess the risks, and make recommendations for managing the situation.

4. Which of the following would be used in response to a report of behaviors that have the potential to become violent in some way?

a. Administrative investigation
b. Threat assessment investigation
c. Criminal investigation
d. Potential violent act investigation

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Administrative Investigations

It is important to use an investigator who conducts the investigation in a fair and objective manner. The investigation should be conducive to developing truthful responses to issues that may surface. It must be conducted with full appreciation for the legal considerations that protect individual privacy. It is imperative the investigation, especially the interview process, create an atmosphere of candor and propriety. Check out more information on techniques for alternative dispute resolution.

Use a Qualified Investigator

If a decision is made to conduct an administrative investigation, it is important to use a qualified and experienced professional workplace violence investigator. The company planning group should train and qualify one or more such investigators before the need for an investigator arises.

Investigation and Evaluation

After an incident occurs, a detailed investigation is imperative. All incidents, including near misses, should be investigated as soon as possible. A delay of any kind may cause important evidence to be removed or destroyed either intentionally or unintentionally. The investigation should focus on fact-finding to prevent recurrence and not fault-finding. Employers should maintain comprehensive records of the investigation.

When Conducting the Investigation:

  • Get statements from witnesses,
  • Photograph damage/injuries where appropriate.
  • Identify contributing causes.
  • Recommend corrective action.
  • Encourage appropriate follow-up.
  • Consider changes in controls, procedures or
  • Use a Threat and Assault Log to collect facts on who, what, when, where and how the incident occurred.

5. Which type of investigation should be conducted when issues surrounding an incident may surface requiring administrative action?

a. Hazard investigation
b. Criminal investigation
c. Threat assessment investigation
d. Administrative investigation

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Criminal Investigations

In a case where a decision is made to conduct an administrative investigation, and there is potential criminal liability, be sure to work closely with your legal department and law enforcement organization. In potentially violent situations, it is often difficult to determine whether the misconduct is a criminal offense. When there is any doubt, check it out.

Ensure that criminal prosecutions are not compromised. Criminal prosecutions must not be compromised by actions taken during administrative investigations. It is necessary to ensure the administrative investigator, management, and all members of an incident response team understand actions taken during an administrative investigation may compromise potential criminal prosecutions.

If the company obtains statements from the subject of the investigation in the wrong way, the statements can impede or even destroy the ability to criminally prosecute the case. On the other hand, if handled correctly, statements made in administrative investigations could prove vital in subsequent criminal proceedings.

6. Incident response team members should understand that actions taken during an administrative investigation may _____ potential criminal prosecutions.

a. compromise
b. not compromise
c. assist
d. support

Check your Work

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