Here’s Why Workplace Safety Requires Continuous Vigilance

Employers put a tremendous amount of time, energy and resources into recruiting and hiring the right person for the job. On average it takes 36 days between a candidate’s first contact with the company and their first day as an employee, according to research from the Society for Human Resource Management. A lot happens during this time span, from sourcing and interviewing to pre-hire assessments, all the way through onboarding. As the days elapse, the company continues investing to engage and thoroughly vet their prospective employee.

Just like in the Bill Murray film Groundhog Day, the workflow repeats itself. Sometimes it pays off quickly and the candidate advances; other times it doesn’t, and the recruiting team has to source additional talent for consideration. In most instances, qualified applicants will make it through the pre-screening stage, subject to background checks that verify their credentials and ensure the candidates are who they claim to be. This is now considered a standard procedure, and most candidates have come to expect this step and most move forward without hesitation. However, let’s consider what happens after the initial pre-screen, once a candidate becomes an employee.

Charting the Employee Experience

After all the effort that goes into getting a job, workers–hourly and salaried–will stay an average of 4.2 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. During that period, it’s no surprise that people will change, especially as days and months turn into years. And yet, post-hire, the majority of workers manage to fly under their company’s radar by handling their responsibilities and checking in with higher-ups for the occasional performance review.

Still, a lot can happen outside the office, and an employee’s criminal background status won’t always remain the same. When situations do occur, without the proper safety net in place, the employer isn’t guaranteed to receive notice. This presents the constant possibility of unknown workplace safety matters and associated risks. Of course, every incident is different, and it’s near impossible to predict how each case might–or might not–impact the workforce as a whole. Regardless, risk is risk and employers need a way of both knowing and ensuring that these issues stay out of the office and away from other workers.

Exploring the Possibilities                                                         

Any number of criminal or extreme behavioral activities have implications for the workplace. The challenges become even more complex in specific industries such as healthcare and public transportation. For example, it’s very apparent that driving under the influence is an undesirable charge for someone chartered with driving a school bus or on-demand transportation. Yet, it’s also relevant to the sales rep with a company car or who rents automobiles to drive clients and other employees. Similarly, a domestic violence or custody battle might seem like an incredibly personal situation; yet, there are plenty of instances where such matters spill over into the workplace with dangerous outcomes. Managers need visibility into their teams in order to coach, reassign or terminate those employees who are no longer able to perform the job requirements or have questionable judgment. Without continuous criminal monitoring, there’s no way to know until it’s too late.

According to a CareerBuilder survey of 3,000 full-time workers, some 31 percent feel that their workplace is not well-protected from a physical or technological threat, while about 40 percent say that do not believe their employer has a plan in place should such an attack happen. It is this unknown that puts employers on edge and poses a myriad of risk on their behalf. While accounting for the accused employee pending a conviction, the employer must also safeguard other workers.

Creating Checks and Balances

Given the sheer number of variables at work, this is a tall order. That said, employers have a responsibility for the people they employ and how their actions–or lack thereof–correspond with a safe and productive work environment. As a first step, employers should consider how continuous criminal monitoring of the entire workforce could help mitigate the potential risks at hand. These tools provide alerts whenever a reportable crime takes place post-hire. Rather than implement periodic re-screens, this approach gives employers the opportunity to intervene and handle situations in real-time. In concert with this, the organization should create an adjudication index as a point of reference for if and when an extraordinary situation was to occur.

An excellent example of this product in action occurred when a large energy provider leveraged criminal-records alerts for their existing employee roster. As a part of the standard protocol, the company was alerted through a Criminal Records Watch background screening report that a current employee had recently been tried and convicted of arson. This gave the company the opportunity to take action.

By making such procedures the norm, rather than the exception, employers can institute a clear-cut policy surrounding criminal activities, ongoing monitoring and possible repercussions, taking into consideration regulatory guidelines and compliance needs. With increased visibility, the organization can inform workers and build a culture that encourages vigilance while supporting safety.

Michael Pilnick is chief human resources officer at First Advantage.