The WAVR-21 & The eWAVR
Bridging the gap between research and case management practice
The WAVR-21 – Workplace Assessment of Violence Risk – is a 21-item coded instrument for the structured assessment of workplace targeted violence risk.
First published in 2007 by its co-developers, Dr. Stephen White and Reid Meloy, the WAVR-21 reflects the authors’ extensive case and forensic experience and a thorough review of the research literature. The WAVR is now in its second edition, published in 2010. The manual is written in an accessible style, with non-clinical users in mind, that they may gain a fundamental understanding of workplace violence risk.
- The primary focus of the WAVR-21 is to assess the risk of workplace targeted violence. A term originally coined by the behavioral scientists of the US Secret Service, targeted violence refers to situations in which an individual intentionally commits an act of violence against a pre-selected target, whether people or places. Also referred to as intended violence, these acts are potentially foreseeable, as they are the result of an understandable, evolving and often discernable process of thinking, behavior, and preparation. Several of the WAVR-21 factors incorporate this “pathway to violence” escalation dynamic.
- The WAVR’s secondary purpose is to capture and assess the risk, frequency, and severity of other forms of non-homicidal workplace aggression such as stalking, disruptive anger problems, menacing behavior and bullying. These manifestations of aggression are common and problematic to a workplace community in themselves, and could also figure into the ultimate formulation of a subject who may pose a risk of targeted homicide. This view is consistent with contemporary formulations that targeted violence is continuous, contextual, and dynamic.
- The item domains of the WAVR include psychological, behavioral, historical, and situational factors associated with workplace violence, including intimate partner violence posing a threat to the workplace. In practice, threat assessment and threat management are intertwined. Dynamic risk factors (e.g., acute psychosis, access to weapons or targets) become the focus of interventions intended to reduce risk. Assessment and monitoring are ongoing, and an individual’s response to various interventions (e.g., escalation, de-escalation, or no apparent change) become part of the changing opinion of risk level. Information relevant to employment and workplace investigations is incorporated into the risk factors and inquiry questions.
- The WAVR-21 “tool kit” includes the following forms. All can be used flexibly to meet the demands and challenges of dynamic workplace threat management:
- Coding Grid: This version of the full WAVR is intended for mental health professionals qualified and experienced in the assessment of violence risk, and familiar with workplace dynamics, policies and practices.
- Short Form: “Violence Risk”: This form and its expanded version with queries is intended for non-clinical threat team members, to identify and organize risk-relevant information, and to screen cases for violence potential.
- Short Form: “Protect”: Available with the eWAVR and incorporated within the full Grid as its own item, this form describes protective factors which may reduce violence risk. It also has an expanded version with queries and is appropriate for use by non-clinicians.
- The WAVR-21 and the eWAVR exemplify the growing trend in risk assessment technology toward the use of “structured professional judgment” guides (SPJs). In this organized but non-quantitative format, responders refer to a list of factors, each of which has some form of coding criteria with a demonstrated relationship to violence. Such guidelines improve the consistency and transparency of assessment decision-making. SPJs are also generally prescriptive: they identify interventions and actions to manage and reduce a subject’s identified violence risk.
- By incorporating scientific findings in its definition of violence risk factors, the WAVR-21 attempts to bridge the gap between research and the practical case management needs of workplace-based practitioners. An extensive literature search and resulting reference list underpins the WAVR-21, translating into a rational and defensible approach to assessing and responding to workplace threat scenarios. Clinical judgment is still a necessity in reaching opinions of risk and appropriate responses.
- The Short Form parameters are described in ways that emphasize observation of the subject’s behaviors and statements, and important workplace situational factors. In this way the WAVR-21 helps teams to expeditiously gather and organize important data that the threat assessment specialist can then use to evaluate risk.
- The WAVR-21 is gaining recognition as the standard for the assessment of workplace violence risk. An initial inter-rater reliability study demonstrated good to excellent results. Specifically, evaluators in the study agreed on ratings for most of the 21 items, as well as for overall summary ratings of workplace violence risk, and for risk of serious physical harm.
- The eWAVR – the electronic version of the WAVR – is easy to install and use. It is not software. The eWAVR exists as a set of Microsoft Infopath templates. The templates are easily maintained internally. Case data can be stored as files within SharePoint or on local file shares. Clients may incorporate the eWAVR forms into their existing case management electronic data systems. A 9-minute demonstration of the eWAVR can be viewed from wavr21.com. Please contact us to obtain the demo password.
- The benefits of the WAVR-21 – scientifically-grounded assessment technology, an educational resource, and improved communication among the multi-disciplinary members of the incident management process – are intended to improve the quality of threat management decision-making.