Employers Must Create Workplace Violence Action Plans

A June 4 afternoon session at Safety 2018, "The Fatal Flaws in Your Active Shooter Protocol," addressed how employers and employees should prepare for active shooters from a workplace violence perspective.

SAN ANTONIO -- A June 4 afternoon session at #Safety2018, "The Fatal Flaws in Your Active Shooter Protocol," addressed the unfortunately highly relevant issue of active shooters from a workplace violence perspective. Speaker Bo Mitchell, President of 911 Consulting and a retired police commissioner, laid out the statistics on workplace violence and how employers should prepare.

According to the Department of Justice, the average workplace is 18 times more likely to experience an incident of workplace violence than a fire. Mitchell cited FBI statistics that measured one or more active shooters once a month on average for the five years previous to the Sandy Hook shooting; now these incidents are averaging once a week.

Almost all active shooter situations are over in 4-5 minutes, which means it's difficult for police to deploy in time. Because officials can't arrive instantaneously, Mitchell said, the true first responders in a workplace violence incident are the employer and employees, and training them to call the police is not enough.

In active shooter situations, the Department of Homeland Security says to Run, Hide, and Fight. According to Mitchell, this protocol's fatal flaw is that the first step should be Alert. He stressed that in a chaotic workplace violence situation, employers must have multiple methods to alert employees as to what is happening and what areas to avoid. He listed options such as a PA system, two-way radios, panic alarms, or alerts via cell phones, text messages, or locked computer screens. He emphasized that redundancy and multiple alarms are best.

Appropriate response and protocol in an active shooter situation is complex and not intuitive, Mitchell said, so there are many points that are vital to include when training employees. "We don't rise to our occasion, we sink to the level of our training," he explained.

He underscored that the main duty of police when entering an active shooter situation is to find the shooter, and that employees should be trained to understand that police officers cannot help them emotionally or medically in this instance. Employees also should be prepared to put their hands in the air and be treated as suspects and searched, he said.

Generalities in emergency action plans are dangerous, Mitchell said, adding that employers must prepare a protocol for workplace violence and active shooters that is specific for employees at each work site. He said that OSHA does not have regulations on workplace violence, but preparations would fall under the standards for emergency action plans and the General Duty Clause. Mitchell recommended creating an emergency action plan based not only on each specific work environment, but the emergency action/management standards set by OSHA and NFPA and the workplace violence standards set by the security organization ASIS International.

About the Author

Jessica Davis is an Associate Content Editor for 1105 Media.

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