Since active shooters have become a more significant concern, it’s essential that companies address the possibility of a threat head-on. It’s a topic most would prefer to ignore, but below we have provided you with information to get you started toward keeping your staff safe.
Here's what you need to know about safety in the workplace: active shooter training:
- Active shooters are an unfortunate but real threat to the safety of the modern workplace.
- Workers need to follow all instructions they receive from law enforcement otherwise, they can worsen an already dangerous situation.
- Employers are obligated to protect their employees from any preventable harm in the workplace.
One of the most fear-invoking things to hear on the news is that there is an active shooter in a school or business. Unfortunately, those stories have become more prevalent in recent years. Since active shooters have become a more significant concern, it’s essential that companies address the possibility of a threat head-on.
To do this, organizations must start by creating appropriate policies and incorporating them into their employee manuals for everyone within the company. All employees need to be aware of the safety protocols. Further, companies must integrate active shooter and workplace violence training into their instituted safety programs.
Active shooter defined
An active shooter doesn’t always equate to violence with a gun, as the name implies. A hostile intruder intent on violence also refers to the phrase “active shooter.” To clarify, according to the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s site, “an active shooter/hostile intruder is someone who is actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill other people in a confined, populated area by any means.
An active shooter doesn’t always equate to violence with a gun.
‘Any means’ includes, but is not limited to:
- Bladed weapons
- Any other tool that is being used in a manner that constitutes deadly physical force.”
Many times when there is an active shooter in the building, there is no pattern or method to the way they select their victims. This makes most active shooter situations extremely unpredictable. They typically evolve quickly and end within minutes of beginning.
How common is workplace violence?
According to OSHA, workplace violence includes any act or threat at the workplace that includes:
- Threatening disruptive behavior
- Physical violence
These acts run the gamut from verbal abuse to homicide. This kind of violence can include anyone in the workplace. It isn’t limited to employees; it can consist of clients, contractors, or even visitors.
Unfortunately, the statistics for workplace violence are staggering. OSHA reports that approximately 2 million Americans are victims of workplace violence annually. Homicide is actually one of the leading causes of job-related deaths in the US.
It’s shocking, however, OSHA reports that approximately two million Americans are victims of workplace violence annually.
In the last 20 years, the FBI recorded over 277 active shooter incidents within the US. Most of those incidents occurred in businesses, schools, government offices, or other areas under employer control.
What are employers’ responsibilities to their employees?
Employers are obligated to protect their employees from any preventable harm in the workplace. Additionally, OSHA’s General Duty Clause requires employers to “provide employees with employment and a place of work free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause serious physical harm or death.”
Workplace violence can constitute a hazard covered under the General Duty Clause. According to this mandate, employers can face enforcement action if they don’t take reasonable action to prevent it.
Employers must implement prevention programs to combat workplace violence even without established regulations. Therefore, various states are adopting laws requiring workplace violence prevention programs. The programs are particularly required for employers in the healthcare industry.
What defines an effective workplace violence prevention program?
Workers must prepare for incidents of workplace violence or active shooter situations. The best way to prepare employees is with a comprehensive prevention program.
An effective workplace violence prevention program is designed as a holistic approach to employee safety. Practical strategies for a violence prevention program include:
- A commitment to safety by employees and management
- Comprehensive policies that clearly state there is zero tolerance for violence at work
- Periodic program evaluation
- Workplace culture change
Clear, comprehensive training is vital to implementing workplace violence prevention strategies. Training is required to effectively ingrain programs into a workplace’s culture.
Nothing is more important than the employee’s safety.
Programs must include practical training that teaches managers how to spot, report, and prevent instances of violence.
Action guidelines for an active shooter situation
These are the steps for dealing with an active shooter situation in the workplace. Regardless of the level of someone’s position within the company, teach every employee these steps as part of a comprehensive workplace safety program.
- EVACUATE (Run): The first step in dealing with an active shooter is to escape if possible. The key to this step is to get to safety. Workers should know where the exits and emergency exits are in relation to their desks or work area. Workers should leave everything behind and get out of the area.
- SHELTER-IN-PLACE (Hide): If employees can’t safely evacuate, they should hide. They want to find places where the shooter will be less likely to find them. As part of the safety program training, encourage workers to consider where they might hide if they should ever need to.
- PROTECT ONESELF (Fight): The last step in dealing with an active shooter is attempting to stop or incapacitate the active shooter. Workers should only try this if their life is in imminent danger.
For any of those steps, workers need to follow all instructions they receive from law enforcement. Otherwise, they can worsen an already dangerous situation by causing authorities to think the team member is working with the perpetrator.
Another thing you should emphasize is that nothing is more important than the employee’s safety. Team members shouldn’t try to be heroic, and they shouldn’t try to carry their belongings with them.
Best practices for creating a more secure workplace
Suppose a company has decided to terminate someone who has the potential to become violent. In that case, the HR department or management should notify the local office of Public Safety before they end the individual’s employment.
Maintaining a safe, secure, and healthy workplace requires open, two-way communication between management and employees. Any workplace safety plan’s human element determines its success or failure.
Companies can restrict access to a building by:
- Employing uniformed security officers
- Installing alarm systems
- Building fences and gates
Still, if workers aren’t appropriately trained, those security systems will only be money spent rather than an effective tool. Here are some additional safety measures you can teach for maximized safety:
- Have workers close and lock the doors even on the warmest days. Everyone should know not to allow anyone to follow them into a card-controlled building.
- Routinely inspect work areas checking for safety and security issues.
- Report broken doors or other unsafe conditions to management as soon as possible after the discovery
- Immediately report and correct signs of escalating behavior.
This isn’t a comprehensive list of safety protocols, but it’s an excellent place to start thinking about workplace safety. Another safety consideration is having periodic active shooter drills similar to your mandatory fire drills. These drills ensure you’ve prepared all employees should they ever have to face this kind of workplace violence.
Conduct periodic active shooter drills, similar to your mandatory fire drills.
Active shooters are an unfortunate but real threat to the safety of the modern workplace. The best way to deal with an active shooter situation is to prevent it if possible. HR and management personnel should work together to create a workplace safety training program that includes specialized training for an active shooter situation.
Additionally, employers should consider holding periodic active shooter drills so employees can familiarize themselves with escape routes, hiding places, and other routines that will help them remain safe should an active shooter situation arise at work.