I came across these articles by Sarah Ovaska and Thomasi McDonald about a social worker hurt in an office attack in Raleigh, NC, last February (Social worker hurt in attack: Security a concern at Wake building and Wake County Social Worker Assaulted on the Job). It reminded me of some office incidents that motivated us to write about office safety in our book The Safe Approach.
In this incident, a 28-year-old male walked into the social worker’s place of employment and basically had freedom of access to the entire building. Apparently there is no visible security checkpoint at the entrance: just a sign taped to a desk asking visitors to sign in with security. The suspect went straight up to the victim’s fourth-floor office, where he repeatedly punched and kicked the victim, sending her to hospital.
People wandering around an office can be a great threat to personal safety and security. At the very least there ought to be a locked gate or door separating the reception area from the offices. The client should be signed in and given temporary visitor identification. They should then be escorted to and from the interview. The best set up is to have a designated interview room with separate doors for the client and worker. Display signs in the waiting area should indicate zero tolerance for violence. Any staff member who notices a stranger wandering about the office should politely question them as to their business there. You should never assume that the stranger that you see walking past has signed in or has permission to be there.
Having the client sign in at reception also gives the reception staff an opportunity to assess the visitor’s demeanor. If they are agitated and/or aggressive it is a good idea to keep them out and ask them to return when they are calmer. If they cause a scene you can summon appropriate assistance to deal with this in the reception area.