Workplace violence summit draws crowd to Lowell's Cross Point
By Rick Sobey, firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATED: 01/08/2016 09:13:48 AM EST 0 COMMENTS
LOWELL — Brian Shanley has no reason to think his work environment is dangerous. As the COO of PrideSTAR EMS in Lowell, he feels safe at work every day.
But in a day and age when workplace violence is frequently in the news, it's critical to be proactive, according to Shanley.
"Given the San Bernardino incident, and other things that have been going on, many organizations like us have made workplace safety a priority," Shanley said. "It's extremely important to be prepared. These situations are happening far too often."
And it appears that numerous businesses, organizations and agencies across Greater Lowell are taking workplace violence seriously.
More than 300 attendees from 140 employers attended Thursday's Workplace Safety Conference at Cross Point in Lowell, hosted by the Middlesex District Attorney's Office and Middlesex Community College (MCC). All sorts of industries were represented at the conference, including education, health care, banking and police.
The event addressed best practices and training methods for effective prevention, response and intervention with potential crises in the workplace.
"Violence is increasingly spilling over into the workplace," said Terrence Downes, executive director of the MCC program on Homeland Security. "This is a vital aspect of every business and organization, and it sometimes may keep you up at night worrying.
"The idea here is to help agencies be better prepared to handle a problem," he added.
Middlesex County is no stranger to these workplace violence situations. Last February, a 30-year-old man was shot dead by police after he allegedly stabbed two employees outside the Salter School in Tewksbury.
Also, five years ago on the day after Christmas, two individuals robbed a Kohl's in Woburn. Police Officer Jack Maguire was shot and killed responding to the robbery, which is considered workplace violence, according to Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan.
She also pointed to the Wakefield incident 15 years ago when Michael McDermott killed seven of his co-workers.
"People may have thought at the time that this will probably never happen again, but so many incidents have happened since," Ryan said. "There have been a series of incidents over the last few years.
"There are steps to take to address these issues," she added. "We can be more prepared. I want you to take the ideas you learn today back to your workplace."
Like Shanley of PrideSTAR, Brian Delaney of Raytheon says he feels safe at work. There are no threats there, but smart organizations are the best prepared, he stressed. "We all want to find better ways to be prepared," Delaney said. "In today's environment, you just never know what's going to happen."
He said that Raytheon already has plans in place to deal with any troubled employees. The company has a "Threat Management Team," consisting of human resources, security and legal. "We'll immediately pull a group together if there's a problem," Delaney said. "We take appropriate action and address it moving forward."
Conference attendees received a "Best-In-Class" checklist to take back to their organization.
Ryan developed the Workplace Safety Program in response to escalating reports of violence in the workplace. This public/private partnership is designed to train employers, managers and employees about intervention, prevention and response to safety concerns. Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter and Tout @rsobeyLSun. Read more: