What does it take to create a safe environment in a school, church, or business? This question is on the minds of leaders around the country as their organizations face threats ranging from harassment to gun violence. Schools and religious organizations face an especially intense level of scrutiny following years of headlines highlighting institutional failures that led to real harm for the vulnerable, including children.
There is a growing consensus that baseline preventative efforts are not enough to combat the array of concerns that such organizations face today. Even smaller churches and private schools may choose to pursue a culture of safety founded on a robust risk management process. Fostering a culture of safety requires a comprehensive set of protocols that create and promote a safe environment.
One Catholic diocese in West Virginia has embraced that principle, creating a Safe Environment Program that encompasses all the layers necessary for robust security. The church had background checks in place already, but it chose to expand them to include not only clergy and religious school staff but also volunteers. Even the Bishop must undergo a fingerprint background check under the new policy.
Upgraded background checks are only part of the new efforts. To improve safety over the long term, the diocese elected to engage an outside business for continuous employee monitoring and periodic on-site spot checks. The protocols aim to ensure that every location in the diocese follows the rules and has the appropriate systems in place. For added effectiveness, the diocese has developed an outside resource for reporting concerns anonymously, providing a neutral pathway for raising flags about concerning behavior.
To oversee all these changes, the diocese created a new agency: the Office of Safe Environment. For other organizations and even commercial businesses, there are vital lessons to consider here. Replicating a similar process of codifying safety protocols could pay dividends.
An encompassing set of rules and guidelines, powered by the right services, will develop a foundation for not only a safe environment but also a culture of safety. When every employee or individual in an organization feels supported, they are more likely to speak up when something isn't right. With appropriate oversight, everyone can do their part to protect one another and, in the case of schools and churches, the most vulnerable people under their care.
The lesson is clear: "trust but verify" is a viable way to create a culture of safety within an organization. Granting others a second chance is often crucial to organizations, but so is balancing equitable opportunity with safety.
With backgroundchecks.com, laying the groundwork for a comprehensive safety protocol is fast and simple. From church background checks to ongoing criminal monitoring, the right processes should incorporate all the right tools.