The news of an active shooter at the YouTube headquarters is saddening. As the nation focuses on the conversation of school security in the wake of the shooting at Parkland, FL the discussion of threats in the workplace became sidelined. We know from the FBI Active Shooter reports from 2000-2015 that 95% of active shooters in the workplace to businesses closed to the public are current or former employees. The other 5% have a relationship with a worker at the business. We have seen time and again how disgruntled employees, domestic discord or disputes among workers has resulted in violence and death. It is all too common in the American workplace.
Businesses often prepare for many emergencies. Human resource professionals will tell you there are protocols in place for fire, climactic events and chemical spills. Warning systems will sound, emergency responders will be notified, and staff understand the protocols and responsibilities for their positions in the event of a crisis. When it comes to a hostile intruder in the workplace, however, the process is unknown and the need for alarms is almost ignored by businesses. We know from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that in 2016 the category with the highest increase from the previous year was homicide (525 up from 416 in 2015) compared to the number of fire deaths that was the only category to decrease. The worst statistic is that 40% of woman killed in the workplace are the result of homicide from a domestic partner. The likelihood of an armed intruder is 30 time more likely than a fire, 60 times more likely that a climactic event and 125 time more likely than a chemical spill and yet it is the one we are least prepared to handle.
Most business owners and managers assume that Worker’s Compensation will cover these hostile events. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always apply depending on the circumstances. The OSHA General Duty Clause 5(a)(1) requires employers to provide a workplace ‘free from recognized hazards’. In the years since the clause was implemented several OSHA director interpretation letters have indicated that ‘courts have interpreted this clause as a legal obligation for employers’. A January 2017 directive titled Enforcement Procedures and Scheduling for Occupational Exposure to Workplace Violence to OSHA investigators (CPL 02-01-058) recommended for all industries and administrative workplaces to ‘install and regularly maintain alarm systems and to arrange for reliable response systems when triggered’. Without creating specific standards OSHA has started to implement guidelines that direct employers to take steps to protect employees in the event of workplace violence.
The notion of calling 911 in a crisis is antiquated and when it comes to fire we rely on alarms to alert building occupants so they can seek safety. We have seen that waiting for law enforcement results in higher casualty counts. In February of 2016 in Hesston, KS an employee shot a worker in the parking lot at the Excel Industries. Staff called 911 and the police chief heroically responded in less than 3 minutes. In that same time the shooter entered the plant and shot 14 coworkers, killing 3 of them. There was no way to alert the employees of the threat on the plant floor from the front office. This is just one example of incidents across the country where a threat is known by someone in the bulding but there exists no warning system in place to sound the alarm. A security company responsible for a Kraft foods plant was found liable and had to pay out 8 million dollars to families of three employees who were killed after a disgruntled employee returned and stole a security guards access card. The guard could only call 911 and wait for police. The ability to sound alarms and alert employees in the event of a hostile intruder is essential to providing a safe workplace.
SafeDefend has worked with companies across the country to install and maintain an alert system with tools for protection and trauma response when a hostile event occurs. Most companies assume fences and access control are sufficient. This doesn’t address the fact that the most likely threat to the business will come from within.
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