Workplace Violence and Active Shooters Are On the Rise

January 28th, 2020
Human Resources, Risk Management, Uncategorized


By: Laurey West, SHRM-CP
Director of Operations

Sadly, every time we listen to the news we hear about another workplace violence incident harming or murdering an innocent employee and his or her co-workers. In my thirty years of human resources management, I have had to conduct many investigations related to workplace violence. I always say that working in human resources management and risk management is never boring or dull. A critical and important part of my job is helping clients create zero-tolerance for workplace violence policies, training employees and putting protective measures in place and investigating all claims of workplace bullying and violence. I want to do my very best to help keep our clients’ employees safe and sound and return them to their significant others, families and pets safely at the end of their shifts.

Does your company have a zero-tolerance policy for workplace violence? Have you trained your employees on what to do in an active shooter situation? We work with all of our client companies in a wide range of industries and types of businesses to make sure they have plans in place to protect their employees in the event of a violent confrontation of any kind.
When I began looking for tips to share about a how to handle an active shooting situation, I googled workplace violence in the news and here were just a few headlines on the very first page:

“Family of Man Killed in Warehouse Shooting Files $25 Million Suit”
“Chef in Massachusetts Latest Victim of Workplace Violence”
“2 Dead, 1 Hurt in Shooting at Southern California Law Firm”

Here are some interesting facts from the National Safety Council:

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, workplace violence falls into four categories: criminal intent, customer/client, worker-on-worker and personal relationships, which overwhelmingly targets women. Certain industries are more prone to violence than others including healthcare, transportation, service providers and education. Also, workers who handle money transactions with the public, who work alone or in small teams, or work early-morning or late-night hour shifts are at increased risk of third-party violence due to robbery. In 2017, assaults resulted in 18,400 injuries and 458 fatalities, according to Injury Facts.

Training begins with adapting a strong safety culture that shows your employees you care about their well-being. Do you know the signs to train your supervisors and employees to watch for?  How are you monitoring employees who exhibit concerning behavior?  Do your employees have a plan of action and escape route in the event there is an active shooter on your premises?  Do you have a handwritten active shooter and workplace violence policy? Have you completed practice drills?  Do you have designated areas that employees can go and lock or barricade doors?  There are many considerations when creating an active shooter policy.

It is important to train your managers and employees of possible warning signs that might signal future violence including the following:

• Excessive drug or alcohol use
• Unexplained absenteeism or changes in their behavior at work/decline in work performance
• Depression, withdrawal from others or mention of suicide
• Resistance to changes at work or excessive complaints about unfair or bias treatment
• Repeated violation of company policies
• Emotional outburst and mood swings
• Paranoia

Here are some helpful tips to get you started that I found on the Department of Homeland Security Website:

Teach your employees to run. Employees should take note of two nearest exits in any facility they enter and have an escape route in mind. I have learned to do this in my daily life, also. When we go to movies, I always look for two exits.  Even at the grocery store, I am mindful of where exits are now. You can never be too careful and should always be mindful of your surroundings and ways to exit. Train your employees to leave their personal belongings behind and run as fast and as far away from the situation as possible. If someone is hesitating or is unwilling to go, continue to run. Don’t let someone’s indecisiveness slow you down. This could save your life. Once an employee feels that he or she is far enough away from the situation and shooter’s distance, the employee should contact 911 immediately and provide details and location of the situation.

If your employees are unable to run, train your employees to find the safest possible hiding place. This hiding place should protect the employee if shots are fired in their direction. The hiding place should also not trap an employee or restrict an employee’s movement. Employees should have a way to lock the door and barricade the door. Employees should make sure that their cell phones are silenced while hiding.

As a last resort, employees should be trained to fight the shooter. Again, only if their lives are in imminent danger. In this situation, there is no time for passive responses. If an employee decides to fight the shooter, he or she should act quickly and commit to their actions. The DHR recommends that you try to incapacitate the shooter by throwing items at the shooter and yelling loudly in addition trying to get the person on the ground and then try to remove the weapon(s) from the shooter. If necessary, several employees should sit on the person until the first responders arrive.

Employees should call 911 as soon as it is safe. They should be trained to remain as calm as possible and answer the operator’s questions and be able to provide the address location and details of what the shooter is wearing and where he may be located.

Here is a link to a helpful brochure that you can provide your employees:

The Department of Homeland Security also has a training video on their website at the following web address: