Workplace Safety

Workplace safety; in the event of an active shooter 

In the US, there have been over 300 mass shootings since January 1st. In the Chicagoland area, we have seen a dramatic increase in tragic and violent shootings, including the recent mass shooting in Highland Park on the Fourth of July.  While most of these incidents did not occur in the workplace, workplace shootings do occur.   

Under Federal law, OSHA requires all employers maintain a workplace free of known health and safety hazards.  This includes having a plan in place for possible emergency situations.  While OSHA has yet to make specific guidelines and regulations for active shooter response training, OSHA’s site states that proper planning for an emergency is necessary for an effective response.  

The best way to protect workers is to expect the unexpected and to carefully develop an emergency action plan to guide everyone in the workplace when immediate action is necessary. Planning in advance helps ensure that everyone knows what to do when an emergency occurs.” OSHA, Emergency Preparedness and Response: Getting Started 

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 or an active shooter situation than a fire or other emergency.  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. 

Active shooter situations can be difficult and distressing conversations to have, but as these tragic occurrences become more and more prevalent in Chicago and the surrounding areas, they are necessary conversations to have in order to protect your workplace. Here are some things to consider in preparing your business for an active shooter situation.  

  1. 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? 
  1. 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. 
  1. 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. 
  1. Develop a workplace violence prevention program. According to OSHA, every year 2 million people annually are reporting some form of workplace violence. In 2020, assaults resulted in 20,050 injuries and 392 fatalities, according to Injury Facts®.  A 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. 
  1. Provide routine workplace violence prevention training. 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. 
  1. Conduct Active Shooter Drill. Despite the up rise of active shooting incidents, many companies still do not perform active shooter drills.  When planning your drill take care to conduct it in such a way so as not to frighten or alarm employees. The drill should have an educational focus and be designed to aid employees in retaining information that may save lives. 
  1. Emergency Action Plan. An Emergency Action Plan is something a business can put in place and use during training exercises to prepare staff for the possibility of a real-time situation. Within the Emergency Action Plan, consider not only including a plan for active shooters but also a plan for fires, medical emergencies and other situations that need swift action. Think about including methods of reporting, evacuation procedures, emergency contacts, and information concerning local hospitals, police and fire rescue. As a business owner, consider meeting with an outside consultant, department heads, and building/property managers that are available to you to develop an effective document. Some police and fire departments and hospitals even have personnel dedicated to assisting in establishing emergency plans.  For more information on Emergency Action Plans, check out Three B’s On The Law’s podcast on the topic.  
  1. Emergency Plan and Evacuation Coordinators.  When drafting an emergency action plan, consider selecting a responsible individual to lead and coordinate the emergency plan and evacuation. It is critical that workers know who the coordinator is and understand that the coordinator has the authority to make decisions during emergencies. 
  1. Crisis Kits.  Consider building crisis kits as well, that can include anything from radios and flashlights to first aid and staff rosters. In a rapidly developing situation, it would be useful to have emergency supplies all in one place that can be grabbed on the go. Many offices keep one by the door but also have others located in closets or under desks as well.  

Should you have any questions about active shooter preparedness for your business, or would like to schedule a free initial consultation, please contact Navigant Law Group, LLC at (847) 253-8800 or contact us online 

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This article constitutes attorney advertising. The material is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.