With a law degree and a background in security, law enforcement, the military, and human resources, Errin Britt has found a unique position in which to put her skills to work. In July, she was named to the newly created position of Workplace Risk Assessment Program manager for Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Health System. Not only is she the first person to hold that position at Johns Hopkins but, to the best of her knowledge, she's the first person to be tapped for that role at any similar institution.
The position was established in order to continue improving the way that the institutions assess and manage risks posed by faculty, staff, or students, and to focus on prevention and early intervention through training.
"I was drawn to the position because it tapped into my unique combination of experience and education, and because the role is rare and challenging," Britt says of the position she learned about through a law school classmate who works for Johns Hopkins.
Britt says that she sees the role of the Workplace Risk Assessment Program manager as one of triage, training, and resource. "I serve as the point person for coordinating investigations of concerning behavior through the existing risk assessment process, and focus on prevention and early intervention through training."
She's proud, she says, to be part of "such a progressive but necessary program."
"There is a lot of work to be done around the issue of workplace violence, and the fact that Hopkins considered it important enough to fund a full-time position, dedicated to working with others to achieve a better and safer workplace, is impressive," she says.
Workplace violence is any action that threatens the safety of faculty, staff, employees, students, patients, or visitors; impacts their physical or psychological well-being; or causes damage to the institutions' property.
The spectrum of disruptive behaviors at work includes behaviors of concern (inappropriateness, disrespect, and mild bullying), stalking, bullying, threats, domestic violence, physical injury, or even death.
"The path toward violence is often evolutionary, with markers along the way that fall on a spectrum of disruptive workplace behaviors," says Michelle Carlstrom, senior director of the Office of Work, Life and Engagement, to whom Britt reports.
To investigate and respond to problems, Johns Hopkins has several multidisciplinary risk assessment teams that are made up of representatives from human resources and/or dean's offices; Security; the Office of General Counsel for JHU or the Legal Department for JHHS and JHM; and the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program, or FASAP, which services both entities.
Darrow Brown, a FASAP clinician and a member of the Joint Risk Assessment Team, says, "Managers may consult with a risk assessment team, who will investigate the conduct, determine the threat level, and provide recommendations to decrease the risk of continued behavior."
Britt says that a large part of her job is "to help prioritize which critical incidents need the quickest response. I also make sure the response is comprehensive and well-documented to facilitate tracking critical incidents over time."
For eight years, Britt served as a reservist in the Army's military police corps and, during some of that time, worked as an armed responder in the commercial nuclear security industry. She spent the past three years managing a human resources department for a large provider of private security. In that role, she investigated reported cases of disruptive behavior and violence. "I think my background gives me a distinct perspective when addressing issues of workplace violence and disruptive behaviors at work," she says.
Britt says that part of threat management is increasing awareness about workplace violence and the disruptive behaviors that can precede it.
"I will design and provide training to create awareness and help employees understand the importance of a proactive response to disruptive workplace behaviors," she says. Awareness means understanding that behaviors left unchecked can escalate into violence. "The time for taking action is well before violence occurs. If you see something, say something."
Britt says that she wants to serve as a resource for anyone needing help in identifying and responding to disruptive behaviors. "My experience helps me look at behaviors with a wider lens so that I can consider mitigating circumstances, as well the behaviors themselves," she says.
To help the Johns Hopkins community retain a safe and secure environment free from physical violence, threats, and intimidation, a website has been established at safeathopkins.org. The site includes information about what to do about concerning behaviors and whom to contact to make a report.
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