Jeff McKissack of Defense By Design in Dallas, TX, presented an informative and eye-opening session entitled “Safer Places through Safer People” during Total Solutions Plus, which took place last fall in New Orleans, LA. McKissack, a noted authority in the fields of threat assessment and the prevention of violent crime with over 35 years of experience, speaks at conferences and conventions across the U.S., as well as regularly conducting onsite employee training programs and client value-add events for various companies and corporations. He founded Defense By Design in 2000. McKissack educated the audience about how to protect their business, employees and customers from potentially dangerous workers.
“I have interviewed prisoners and mental patients to learn their tactics,” said McKissack. “There’s no such thing as safe or unsafe places. Criminals know that uneducated people are by far your weakest link and the way to get what they want.”
McKissack emphasized there are two critical questions business owners need to ask themselves. They are:
- “What do we have that other people want?”
- “Who do we have that other people might seek harm?
“Depending on your business, that can mean different things to different people,” he said. “If most of your business and people are internal then that could mean money, equipment or materials. It just depends on what you have. That’s the question you need to ask yourself and your staff.”
McKissack said the second question is what throws many people off. “The number one cause of workplace violence is when domestic violence manifests in the workplace,” he said. “That’s the one you don’t know about until someone shows up on your property because many times the ladies aren’t divulging this information because they don’t feel safe doing so. It’s too personal. They don’t want to say something until the guy shows up.
“You have to think about it,” McKissack went on to say. “Maybe you have a disgruntled client who didn’t like how the install went. It all depends on your particular operation. These are two key questions you should start with if you are going to go pro-active risk management.”
For standard measures, McKissack agrees with cameras, alarms and access control. “I am fully for all three of them,” he said. “I work with companies that supply them. They are fine. Let that be the starting point though, not the ending point. What about when you have a workforce that is actually out in the field? That’s a different environment and no camera, alarm or access control is going to help an employee who could be a truck driver delivering materials or an installer going into a home or business. What happens to those people that work in isolated locations at odd hours that are by themselves and a lot of times have expensive equipment on their trucks?”
If an employee were to get “roughed up” in a scenario such as this, McKissack said you would absolutely have exposure and liability. “They are employees that you sent out there,” he said.
Liability concerns are another factor. “There was a case that was won in Dallas last year,” said McKissack. “It was a $7 billion judgement over workplace violence. It wasn’t an active shooter. It was one perpetrator and one victim. I hear that they will probably settle for around $3.2 billion. These days you have to take it seriously because the legal profession, believe me, has caught on.”
In summary, a worker was known to have issues and had even told the company’s human resource department. There was documentation of incidents between the worker and other employees, but, the company still sent the worker into someone’s home and he murdered the person.
McKissack quoted a law professor about the case who said, “This places duties on employers. Duty of care in a case like this is greater than the normal duty of care because employees are entering the home. The question then becomes, ‘Was that duty of care breached?’”
“And according to a jury, it sure was,” said McKissack. “This case had red flags all over it. In fact, when I get back to Dallas, I’m sitting down with the attorney who won this case to pick his brain. This is a case that rattled a lot of cages. The judge and jury wanted to send a message that you need to take these things more seriously.”
Background checks are critical, according to McKissack. However, he said many companies often do an initial background check, but then never do another one. “If you are sending people into homes, you should at least do a background check once a year, but really every six months. If you aren’t doing at least one a year, then you aren’t meeting the minimal standards of the industry.
“According to OSHA, ‘Workplace violence is violence or threat of violence against workers. It can occur at or outside the workplace,’” said McKissack. “There again, if you have employees getting W2s and operating outside the workplace, you are still responsible for creating a safe and secure environment wherever that assignment happens to take them. It can range from threats to verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide.”
McKissack told the audience that if you think your employees know better be ready for the world of negligence. “You want to make sure you know better and can prove it in court,” he said.
Reading directly from the OSHA fact sheet, McKissack stated, “Provide safety education for employees so they know what kind of conduct is not acceptable. Develop policies and procedures covering business by home providers. Address the conduct of home visits and the presence of others in the home during visits and the workers right to refuse to provide services in clearly hazardous situations.”
Another important consideration McKissack brought to the audience’s attention is social media policies. “Nowadays, what happens with your people off site, off the clock, but online can absolutely negatively impact your company, your operations and your profits,” he said. “Last year, there was an employee from FedEx who went on TikTok and made a video saying, ‘I’m not delivering any packages to anyone who has a democratic sign in their front yard.’ Needless to say that went viral. A couple of months later, a public relations representative from FedEx issued the typical spin of, ‘This is not typical of all of our employees and we are educating and training.’”
McKissack shared he has a friend who owns three UPS locations in the area of Texas where this happened. His friend said his sales rose significantly after the release of that video on social media – demonstrating the impact one employee can have on a company’s reputation and profitability.
“What are your current policies regarding your employees on social media?,” McKissack asked. “Where are these written down to assure they are aware of the same – meaning you aren’t assuming they know better because they don’t. How has this been communicated to them -- verbally as well as in writing?”
McKissack emphasized to dot your “i”s and cross your “t”s, because if your employees have not been told about the policies and there is not formal documentation of it, you cannot hold them accountable. They can question you are stopping their freedom of speech.