Washington, D.C. 20250


FROM:   Reba Pittman Evans /s/                                                                         July 27, 1998
                Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration

                Roger C. Viadero /s/                                                                             July 27, 1998
                Inspector General

SUBJECT: Preventing Violence in the Workplace

In a memorandum, dated April 28, 1998, Secretary Glickman asked us to review the potential for workplace violence at USDA and report back to him on our assessment of the situation at USDA and our plans for addressing the issue.

A USDA Workplace Violence Steering Committee has been hard at work to carry out the Secretary's request. The Committee is chaired by Deborah Matz, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration, and Joyce Fleischman, Deputy Inspector General, and includes the Deputy Administrators/Chiefs for Management from all mission areas, as well as union representatives.

The Committee has identified several actions which can be taken immediately and is developing a comprehensive strategy for preventing workplace violence at USDA focusing on the following four issues:

Identifying, assessing, and responding to threats/incidents of violence.

Workplace violence is a complex issue. Integral aspects of an effective workplace violence prevention program are developing the skills of employees, particularly supervisors and managers, to have more effective interpersonal relationships and interactions, as well as an awareness campaign on the issue of workplace violence. The information on the back of this sheet is intended to increase your sensitivity and provide some basic guidance to assist all employees in preventing workplace violence.

Secretary Glickman stated in his September 12, 1996, policy memorandum on workplace violence that violence, or the threat of violence, by or against any employee of USDA is unacceptable. We are committed to doing everything possible to make USDA, a safe workplace environment.


Responding To Violence In The Workplace

Workplace violence is real. Hopefully, few USDA employees will be confronted with threatening or violent situations in the workplace. In the event that you do encounter such situations, it is important to understand how best to respond. This flyer is intended to give you some basic information on what to do.

There are many forms of violence in the workplace. They may not always be physical, but they usually increase in intensity over time if they are not handled effectively. Examples include:

    - threats of harm to others                 - sexual assaults
    - constant arguing                             - threats of suicide
    - belligerence                                   - violent outbursts
    - bullying                                          - fistfights
    - intimidation                                    - stabbings
    - swearing at others                          - shootings

If you are confronted with an angry or hostile customer, coworker, or other individual:

    - Stay calm and listen attentively.
    - Maintain normal eye contact.
    - Be courteous and patient.
    - Try to keep the situation in your control as much as possible.
    - If the situation is escalating, signal a coworker or supervisor that you need help. If
      necessary, have someone call the Federal Protective Service, contract guard, or the
      local police, depending on your office situation.

If someone is threatening you with a gun, knife, or other weapon:

    - Quietly signal for help, if possible.
    - Stall for time.
    - Keep talking, but follow instructions from the person who has the weapon.
    - Don't ever try to be a hero and never try to grab a weapon.
    - Watch for a safe chance to escape to a safe area.

Things you can do right now to prepare yourself for the unexpected:

    - Find out the telephone numbers you may need in an emergency situation, such as the Federal
      Protective Service, contract guards, local police or sheriff. Put those numbers in a place
      where you can find them quickly.
    - Agree on a code or signal for indicating you need help from your coworkers. You should
      also have a plan for how you would handle a threatening situation if you are working alone.
    - Contact your local personnel office or your agency's Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
      Coordinator to find out the name and number of your EAP provider, who can offer advice
      on appropriate action to respond to potentially threatening situations.

Remember, it is up to each one of us to help make USDA a safe workplace for all of us.