WORKPLACE VIOLENCE – ACTIVE SHOOTER INCIDENTS: MORE COMMON THAN YOU THINK
Just one year ago, a disgruntled employee, Gary Martin, fatally shot five people and wounded five officers at an Illinois warehouse. According to the authorities, Martin was called into a meeting at the Henry Pratt Company warehouse on Friday, which he attended with a hidden gun. After he was told he was being fired, he began shooting, killing the three employees who were at the meeting and two others who were nearby. Martin had worked for the company for 15 years, and was a member of the union. Although the details of his termination have not been released to the public, it is highly likely he knew of his termination when he went into the meeting.
Court records show that Martin had a history of violence prior to the mass shooting, including domestic battery-related charges. In 1995, Martin was convicted of a felony for aggravated assault for stabbing his girlfriend. In January 2014, Martin was issued a Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card after passing a background check. This background check did not reveal his past criminal history. The FOID card allowed him to buy gun and ammunition. In March 2014, Martin purchased a Smith & Wesson .40-caliber handgun from an Aurora gun dealer. According to the police, he applied for a concealed carry permit five days later, which required a fingerprinting and background check. His application for a concealed carry permit was rejected and his FOID card was revoked. But there was no indication that authorities even confiscated his gun.
WHAT IS AN ACTIVE SHOOTER?
The United States Department of Homeland Security defines an active shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms, and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.” According to a 2018 report from the BLS, workplace shootings went up by 83 cases to 394 total from 2015 to 2016, and they comprised 79 percent of all workplace homicides in 2016.
ACTIVE SHOOTER INCIDENTS AND WORKPLACE VIOLENCE
For companies, an active shooter incident represents one of the worst-case scenarios of workplace violence. According to an FBI study, active shooter incidents have increased every year since 2000 with an average increase of 11.4 incidents a year. Based on statistics, you are 18 times more likely to encounter workplace violence and an active shooter situation than a fire. As these tragedies continue to occur more regularly and with increased severity, the concern of a workplace violent act or the likelihood of an active shooter must be seriously considered.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit group that tracks incidents of gun violence, there have been well over 400 mass shootings in the United States in 2019. Mass shootings are defined by that group as incidents where 4 or more people are shot or killed in the same general time and location. Given the prevalence of these types of events, more schools, offices, and other places where the public gathers are focusing on training and preparedness. No less than 3 federal agencies produce literature and materials for use by local law enforcement, businesses, churches and schools to prepare for these types of scenarios.
Uniform among all the training and guidance materials is that organizations must begin planning for these types of scenarios. At a minimum, evacuation plans should be created and reviewed with employees. Staff should be informed of the proper steps to take should an active shooter event occur.
IS WORKPLACE VIOLENCE MORE PREVALENT IN CERTAIN JOBS?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are certain professions which have a higher percentage of workplace deaths due to homicide:
Workplace violence and active shooter scenarios, while more prevalent in higher density urban populations centers and commercial environments, can happen anywhere and at any time. This dynamic rise in incidents of violence makes it necessary for business and community leaders to put proactive measures in place that decrease the likelihood of an incident from occurring and reduces the impact if it does. Most companies do go to great lengths to protect employees from danger, such as fire drills, safety equipment and extensive courses of safety instruction that encompass standard corporate procedures. With respect to workplace violence, however, most companies are unprepared and vulnerable.
- Recognize workplace risk and vulnerability factors. Organizations should perform a realistic and comprehensive risk assessment to identify the security vulnerabilities of the business and facilities to an active shooter event. Factors that companies should take into account include: Does the business require early morning or late-night shifts? Can the company control who enters the building or job site? Do employees work with money or prescription medications? Are their areas of poor lighting on the premises? Do employees deal with volatile customers/clients regularly?
- Implement Security Measures. Providing a secure and physically safe workplace is part of any sound approach for preventing workplace violence. Companies can use a variety of security measures to help ensure safety. While the measures used depend on the resources available in the area, these safeguards may include coded card keys and employee photo ID badges for access to secure areas; camera surveillance systems, on-site guard services; and other appropriate security measures such as metal detectors.
- Create a zero-tolerance workplace violence policy. Cultivate a culture of respect and trust amongst employees and management and eradicate a bad culture of bullying or harassment by creating a zero-tolerance workplace violence policy. The policy should be plainly worded and specify how the employer classifies workplace violence, the conduct the policy prohibits, methods for reporting violations, and how these reports will be investigated. It’s also important that employees understand the consequences of such behavior, which should include disciplinary or other undesirable actions up to and including termination and/or criminal charges.
- Develop a workplace violence prevention program. The workplace violence prevention program can stand alone or it can be integrated into your injury and illness prevention program. Regardless, it’s essential that all employees (to include managers and supervisors) be familiar with the company policy and program. Employees should also hold discussions so that they know how to manage bullying, frightening, or violent incidents. Employers should schedule periodic training sessions with employees to make sure they recognize the responsibilities they have in preventing workplace violence. Those responsibilities include accurate reporting, keeping a record of all occurrences or suspected occurrences, and avoiding potentially dangerous situations whenever possible.
- Provide routine workplace violence prevention training. Simply put, it’s every employer’s duty to strive toward protecting and safeguarding their employees by training them to respond appropriately to active shooters. 70% of active shooter incidents occur in businesses versus campuses. If your workforce is not trained on how to respond responsibly in this type of situation, they might not know how to escape alive. It’s not enough to have a strategy. You must communicate that strategy and each of these methods to your employees. Training them before such an incident actually occurs will help to bolster prevention protocols at your workplace. Moreover, it’s important to distinguish the different types of training needed for employees versus management, as both will have a unique role in a crisis situation. Lastly, it’s important to remember that training does not necessarily equal learning. Training should be developed and delivered based on sound adult learning principles.
- Conduct Active Shooter Drill. Despite the up rise of active shooting incidents, companies still do not perform active shooter drills, even though nearly 50% of corporations with an excess of 1,000 employees experience workplace violence annually (Hart, 2016). Active shooter drills should be established and conducted in such a way so as not to frighten or alarm employees. They should have an educational focus and be designed to aid employees in retaining information that may save lives.
Should you have any questions about business law or any other laws that may affect your business, or would like to schedule a free initial consultation, please contact Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC at (847)253-8800 or contact us online.
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To access at no-charge, a WPD webinar recorded series regarding Workplace Violence, please send an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org
Workplace Violence Part 1 – Active Shooting Incidents
Workplace Violence Part 2 – Domestic Violence at Work
Workplace Violence Part 3 – Tips to Employers for a Proactive Prevention Program
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