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ACR Taskforce on Safety: Recommended Guidelines — Final Part 3 in Series

Read Part 2 here

C. What to Do in Case of Actual or Threatened Violence

ADR practitioners continuously assess the behavior of parties and their ability to participate safely in the process. Just as the ADR practitioner is responsible overall for the environment in any ADR process, so it is of the utmost importance that the ADR practitioner continues in this role and remains calm and competent during any violent or potentially violent situations.

While you should remain courteous and respectful to the extent possible, you should cease your neutral role and become directive. Your primary focus should shift from resolving the dispute to ensuring safety of all involved. For some ADR practitioners, especially some mediators, this shift of mindset can be difficult. Thinking through your response and practicing it with a colleague, before you are in a dangerous situation, will leave you better prepared should the real situation arise.

Your first decision is whether you can stop the violent or potentially violent situation. Trust your instincts. Don’t hesitate to terminate the session if you feel you are at risk. Seek additional support and/or postpone the session if you need time to do additional research.

If you believe you can stop the violence before it erupts, you may want to consider:

1. Stand up
2. Gain the attention of the participants
3. Give a command to the aggressive participant to disengage and return to their seat.
4. Separate the participants. You will probably want to leave the more violent participant in the ADR room and escort the other out of the room. If you do, be sure to inform a colleague or security officer of the potential threat remaining in the room.
5. Terminate the session with participants separated. Do not bring them back into the room together.
6. Stagger the exit of the participants. Give the threatened participant/s the opportunity to leave first. Ensure that all participants have access to transportation. If both participants took public transportation or shared transportation, consider how to avoid further contact between the participants.
7. You may choose to escort them to their transportation, or ask a colleague to do so.

If you are not able to stop the violence or believe you are unable to do so, you may want to consider:

1. Do not physically confront a violent person.
2. Get out of the room.
3. Enlist another person to assist you in separating the participants.
4. Follow the steps above.

Whether or not you are able to control the violence, you may want to consider:

1. Decide whether to contact the authorities
2. In the event there is physical contact (e.g., biting, hitting, spitting, slapping, throwing liquids), call the police.
3. Call other emergency services, such as ambulance, if needed.

IV. Conclusion

These recommendations are designed to help ADR practitioners and programs identify potential safety concerns and develop safety plans to reduce the risk of violence and address any violent altercations that may occur in their ADR processes. Each practice and program is unique and will require its own individualized safety plan. These recommendations may be used as a guide or starting spot to help inform practitioners and programs as they consider ways to better protect the safety of the practitioners and participants in their practices.

Safety is essential in all types of ADR. The Taskforce encourages practitioners and programs to continue and expand the discussion of ways to promote safety in all ADR processes.


ACR, Taskforce members, organizations, and individuals who participated in the process of developing these Recommendations disclaim liability for any personal injury, property, or other damages of any nature whatsoever, whether special, indirect, consequential, or compensatory, directly or indirectly resulting from the publication, use of, or reliance on this document. In issuing and making this document available, ACR and this Taskforce’s members are not undertaking to render professional or other services for or on behalf of any person or entity. Anyone using this document should rely on his or her own independent judgment or, as appropriate, seek the advice of a competent professional in determining the exercise of reasonable care in any given circumstance.


Stephen Kotev

Helping people resolve problems and improve their performance under stressful circumstances is Stephen Kotev’s passion and profession. With a Masters degree in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Stephen has substantial experience in mediation, negotiation, facilitation, conflict coaching, conflict management and somatic education.… MORE >

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