Preventing Workplace Shootings

Workplace violence occurs in many different forms, but almost none have employees more on edge than the potential for a shooting. Workplace shootings are rare, but when they do happen, it leaves many questioning if it could happen to them next. Whether it is a disgruntled former employee that was terminated or laid off, an individual who has something against the business, or a current employee, it is vital to ensure safety precautions are in place to protect everyone within your establishment to the best of your ability.

Workplace Shooting Statistics

In the United States between 1982 and November 2018, there have been a total of 33 workplace shooting incidents, resulting in 192 deaths and 121 injuries (these statistics do not include school shooting events). Every single one resulted in at least 3 fatalities. The highest number of fatalities occurred during the 1986 shooting at the United States Postal Service in Edmond, Oklahoma, with a total of 15, and the deaths of 14 in the San Bernardino, California, shooting in 2015.

In the instance of the United Postal Services shooting, the mail carrier responsible was in trouble with his supervisors and was afraid of losing his job after a poor performance review. Union officials at the time stated there was a massive increase in pressure on employees, even reaching levels of harassment, to increase their productivity, which is thought to have influenced the intense reaction of the shooter.

The San Bernardino shooting occurred during a holiday party for employees. The man was an environmental health specialist with the county for five years. Based on records obtained by the FBI, he had been in touch via phone and social media with multiple individuals under investigation for international terrorism, so he was potentially radicalized. However, there were also workplace grievances filed that could have also played a part in the motive.

Along with fatalities, employees are also at risk of severe injury, whether due to a non-lethal gunshot wound or even an injury during an attempted escape. Having a proper plan in place will help minimize the risk of injury and death as individuals will be better prepared to react and know where to go to reach safety.

Preventing Workplace Shootings

As with any workplace violence, it can sometimes be impossible to predict if an individual has the potential to commit a shooting, such as the case in 2010 at the Hartford Beer Distributor in Manchester, Connecticut. That being said, there are actions you can take to help prevent a potential workplace shooting and keep your employees safe:

  • Take necessary safety precautions during any potentially contentious termination of employment. If there is any indication the person may be dangerous, take steps prior to notifying the employee, such as performing a threat assessment, hiring security to attend the meeting, and/or ensure additional security is present in the location in the days and weeks to follow. Also, consider where the termination meeting will take place and who should be in attendance.
  • During termination, be honest, but keep it factual, level, and respectful. Regardless of the reasoning for termination, refrain from being vindictive or hurtful, and display compassion, honesty and openness. Remember, someone is losing their job that they most likely relied on for their livelihood, so it is a big blow to their personal life and financial situation. Be sure you have all facts lined up from appropriate parties as to why they are being terminated so it is straightforward and cannot be viewed as a personal decision. And no matter what reaction you receive, keep your demeanor professional by remaining respectful, honest, and understanding.
  • Be proactive in recognizing signs of potential violence and train others to identify these, as well. Be mindful of employees who regularly use intimidation against others, talk about weaponry, exhibit paranoid or anti-social behavior, express feelings they aren’t being heard by the company, begin acting extremely desperate, have a prior history of violence, or are loners who do not fit in with the group at large. These should be addressed immediately and discussion with the employee to get to the root of an issue may help prevent any dangerous action from taking place.
  • Get to know your employees, both current and former. Knowing your employees will help you quickly recognize a change in behavior that could end up saving lives. Plus, having a better connection with your team makes individuals more comfortable with you, encouraging them to step forward should they recognize signs you may have missed. Perhaps those leaving the company recognized potentially dangerous behavior which can be easily received via anonymous exit interviews. Utilizing these exit interviews, such as our ExitRight® survey, allows employees to leave open and honest feedback that is sent to your company promptly so you can take action quickly with any potential problem.

Preventing workplace violence and shootings is a vital part of employee and customer safety, but it cannot be done passively. Letting your guard down and assuming that no one in the building has the potential of such action or taking expressed concerns lightly could be putting yourself and many others at risk.

For more information on how you can help prevent workplace shootings through open and honest communication with your employees via anonymous surveys, or to schedule a demo of our survey products, contact us today.