The tragic shootings are a “grim reminder of the need for every workplace to have a safety plan and procedures in place,” says Ray Maurer of Society for Human Resources Management. There were 8,666 homicides at work in over the span of fourteen years according to recently published The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI ) conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While workplace homicides are fewer every year, the average from 2006 to 2010 is 551 deaths per year.
Homicides: one of every ten deaths in the workplace
In the last year of the CFOI report (2010), there were 518 workplace homicides, compared to 5,094 occupational deaths of all causes. In other words, 11 percent of all work fatalities are related to violence.
Homicides more likely in a retail setting
More homicides occurred in a retail setting, according to data made available by the BLS. For example, 110 shootings (27 percent) occurred in a retail environment in 2010. Whereas, school shootings happened only 12 times over the longer five-year period of 2006 to 2010.
Hard to prevent
“It is highly unlikely that we could have prevented this (Sandy Hook shooting). The only potential for prevention in this case it seems, would have been if somebody who knew the shooter suspected that he had problems that could lead to this and got him help,” said W. Barry Nixon, executive director of the National Institute for the Prevention of Workplace Violence, in an interview with SHRM.
Assembling a threat assessment team is a good first step, according to experts interviewed by SHRM. The assessment should lead one to what steps can be taken to minimize exposure.
SHRM recommends the following environmental design safeguards and administrative controls:
- Physical separation of employees from customers, clients and the general public through the use of barriers or enclosures.
- Making high-risk areas visible to more people and installing good external lighting.
- Access to and exits from the workplace. The number of entrances and exits, the ease with which non-workers can gain access to work areas because doors are unlocked, and the number of areas where potential attackers can hide are issues that should be addressed.
- Numerous security devices may reduce the risk for assaults against employees and facilitate the identification and apprehension of perpetrators. These include closed-circuit cameras, alarms, two-way mirrors, electronic control access systems, and panic-bar doors that lock from the outside.
- Staffing plans and work practices such as prohibiting unsupervised movement, increasing the number of staff on duty at retail or late-night establishments, and utilizing security guards or receptionists to screen people entering the workplace and to control access to actual work areas.
Train employees and conduct drills
Employees need to know plans that are in place to prevent occurrences and what to do should something happen.
Be ready to deal with the aftermath of an incident
- Communicate a company response and staff’s role in the response.
- Monitor the workplace environment for additional concerns about threats.
- Designate media point person.
- Monitor social media and respond with reassurance.
- Providing support for post-traumatic stress.
- Teach employees about the stages of grief.