OHS Canada Magazine

Visitor management plays big role in workplace violence prevention strategies

March 18, 2024
By Terry Swanson
Health & Safety

Photo: Getty Images

At any organization, creating a safe work environment needs to be a top priority. Workplace violence can happen at any time, so organizations need to be prepared to identify potential threats and intervene before issues escalate.

When workers are threatened, so are operations, so the more precautions and responsive measures an organization can take, the more they can minimize the impact of violent events. This is often easier said than done, but with the right tools in place, organizations can begin to mitigate and in some cases prevent workplace violence.

Stopping the threat

One way to prevent workplace violence is by stopping a threat before it even has an opportunity to enter a building. That’s why many organizations are starting to implement visitor management systems.

Too often organizations either have no formal process for checking in visitors to their buildings, or the process that is in place is rudimentary, like a pen and paper sign-in sheet. This can pose a significant risk as individuals who may wish to do others harm can easily access facilities.

A visitor management system helps establish a standard procedure that every guest must follow to verify their identity and gain access to a workplace. Robust tools will leverage facial recognition by having guests take a picture of themselves using a tablet and then have their ID scanned. That information is then screened against national databases and watchlists as well as any custom-banned visitor lists an organization may create.


These lists could include disgruntled ex-workers, contractors, or other problematic individuals that workers have identified as people who should not be allowed in.  Any issues are flagged so workplace officials can intervene, while permitted guests are given a printed badge they can use during their visit to demonstrate that they have completed the check-in process and have permission to be in the building.

Integrating visitor, incident management systems

Identifying a potential workplace violence issue is only one component of a safety strategy though. Visitor management systems can be powerful tools, but on their own, they can have limited alerting capabilities. If an organization has a single person at their front desk, that person may be left to deal with a potentially dangerous situation. Integrating visitor management with incident management systems can expand alerting capabilities and provide critical tools for handling workplace violence situations.

Incident management tools that include mass notification can automatically initiate alerts when a flagged individual tries to check into a workplace. This can expand alerts beyond the front desk to security teams and other workplace officials who can understand that an issue is taking place and additional assistance is needed.

Text, audio, and visual alerts delivered to connected technology throughout a workplace, including desk phones, computers, digital signage, speakers, strobes, mobile devices, and more help ensure messages emphasize the urgency of the situation while reaching people wherever they are.

Additional level of security

Implementing this tool also gives workplaces an additional level of security should a violent event occur. Incident management tools offer the ability to prebuild scenarios with resources that address every step of the response process.

Workplace violence may require a lockdown, evacuation, or shelter in place. With an incident management system, organizations can develop messaging for whatever response will be most effective as well as alerts that cover every step of the process. Notification can also be targeted to specific areas of a building, like a wing or floor, or to specific groups, like security or leadership. Customization helps the right message get to the right people.

It also enables organizations to provide clear, consistent instructions across multiple channels about what’s happening and what they should do to stay safe.

Incident management systems can also help bring together key stakeholders who can assess a situation and determine the best course of action. This can be done through integration with virtual collaboration tools and sending out alerts that ask for a response. These notifications can help workplace leaders get real-time insights into who is safe and who needs assistance.

Running drills

Another way to stay ahead of workplace violence is to run drills to prepare for such events. Some visitor management tools also offer safety drill components to help organizations schedule, assign, and conduct drills.

For workplaces with multiple buildings, this can be particularly useful as this centralizes safety drill management in a single digital tool rather than relying on spreadsheets or binders. As drills are completed, digital records are automatically created that organizations can review to see how the process went and identify areas for improvement.

Workplace violence can cause disarray and put workers at risk. While there is no guaranteed solution to this problem, organizations can enhance their strategies and tactics to create a more secure workplace. and From the front door to the successful resolution of an event, the right tools can make a significant difference in how workplaces keep their people and operations safe.

Terry Swanson is president and CEO of Singlewire Software.


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