EXCLUSIVE: Stopping the smash and reducing workplace violence

Office buildings - workplace violence

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Vandal-resistant glass can be used to protect against civil unrest and workplace violence, says Greg Schreiber, Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Boon Edam.

Workplace violence

The challenge of maintaining a secure environment is continuing to grow for businesses and building owners.

Perhaps one of the most significant risks that has risen over the past decade has been workplace violence. The statistics on this hazard are alarming.

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says that approximately two million American workers are victims of workplace violence each year.

In the year 2020 alone, workplace violence and assaults resulted in a startling 20,050 injuries and 392 fatalities, according to Zippia.

The rates are highest for jobs that involve direct contact with the public, including professions such as law enforcement, healthcare and the service industry.

While many instances of workplace violence are personally targeted at specific individuals, the overall threat level is exacerbated by a disturbing environment of rising social volatility across the US and around the world.

This is only expected to increase as the next election approaches, as forecasted by experts.

According to the Department of Homeland Security’s National Terrorism Advisory System, “In the coming months, factors that could mobilize individuals to commit violence include their perceptions of the 2024 general election cycle and legislative or judicial decisions pertaining to sociopolitical issues.”

One has only to pay attention to current news stories to recognize the prevalence of this threat in today’s society.

With the risks of both civil unrest and workplace violence rising, it is the responsibility of employers, building managers and building owners to take steps to improve security in order to prevent damage, harm and loss of life.

While there are many different physical security solutions available to help mitigate risk as well as to identify perpetrators inside buildings, one of the best measures to protect staff, contractors and visitors along with property is to prevent criminals from being able to enter in the first place.

Building security

It is essential to consider the installation of architectural upgrades that fortify the entry and can mitigate the risks of workplace violence.

While traditional entry solutions such as access control, surveillance cameras and security officers provide a measure of deterrence to a casual or opportunistic offender, they may not be enough to stop a more determined attacker.

One way a criminal might attempt to enter a building when access is denied is by trying to smash the glass in an entrance door.

Criminals may see this as a fast and easy way to get into a building in order to commit a crime.

This mode of entry is typically carried out by someone unconcerned with stealth and also by someone who is more likely to be violent once they have entered the premises.

Some of these cases are pure vandalism, with criminals throwing rocks or other projectiles at glass doors simply to cause as much mayhem and damage as possible to make a political statement or just for “fun”.

Others are even more dangerous, with active shooters and other violent criminals entering buildings to cause extreme harm.

Others are theft oriented; the retail industry has been victim to a number of these examples recently.

In these so-called “smash-and-grab” burglaries, a group of individuals smashes open the doors to retail establishments and hauls out as much merchandise as they can as quickly as they can.

This same technique is also being used to enter office buildings, including financial, technology, healthcare or government operations, among others.

To strengthen security against these kinds of crimes and forms of workplace violence, it is essential to strengthen the door itself.

While some building owners or managers might think that it would be necessary to install heavy steel or other industrial-looking doors in order to deliver this level of security, it is not required.

Doors of this type detract from the appearance and prestige of a building, but there is a much better option.

Using vandal-resistant glass for security entrances is an effective way to add a layer of protection while maintaining the architectural character of the entry.

This type of glass can be created by applying newly-developed smash-resistant laminate film, which is engineered to withstand a range of impact forces, to new or existing doors.

When struck, vandal-resistant glass cracks like a spider web instead of shattering into multiple pieces, while remaining securely inside its frame.

Whether it is bashed by a blunt object or a crowbar, the panel will remain intact upon impact.

The proactive measure

There are several positive effects of this technology which go beyond simply preventing access at that particular entry point.

First, because the glass cannot be shattered quickly, the individual trying to enter may spend a considerable time attempting to gain access.

This provides security personnel a much greater opportunity to take remedial actions, such as calling the police etc.

In addition, the amount of time spent by the would-be attacker without being able to gain access may deter any future attempts of entry.

Finally, the potential for injury to bystanders from glass shards – either flying through the air or scattered after traditional glass is shattered – is greatly reduced.

The importance of the time element above cannot be overstated. Smash-resistant film can extend the time spent attempting to break and enter by up to ten minutes.

This is more than enough time to call first responders to the scene or for an identified target of workplace violence to be moved to safety.

A further benefit of smash-resistant laminate film is that it can be applied to either new doors or doors already in place to prevent workplace violence.

This is a huge bonus for those businesses or organizations looking to upgrade their security at the entry cost-effectively, without having to make a significant investment in new doors.

The relatively smaller expense is more than worthwhile when it is compared to the potential for harm, including any financial, safety, productivity or liability consequences, from unauthorized entry.

With vandal-resistant glass in place at the entry, a criminal with the intention of smashing through the door to make their way into a building or business is far more likely to be thwarted.

Particularly with experts forecasting increased volatility around the next election, now is the right time for facility managers, security directors and business leaders to make sure that all of their buildings’ security entrances are equipped with vandal-resistant glass, to reduce workplace violence.

Taking proactive measures such as selecting a higher level of security glass heading into a potentially turbulent period will help provide peace of mind by ensuring buildings are hardened against damage and that staff and visitors are protected.

This article was originally published in the October edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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