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Safety group issues guidance on workplace violence

Workplace violence

The American Society of Safety Professionals has published a technical report to help companies mitigate the risk of violence in their workplaces and develop a coordinated response to violence incidents that may occur.

The document, “How to Develop and Implement an Active Shooter/Armed Assailant Plan,” contains recommendations from more than 30 safety experts on how businesses can better protect themselves ahead of such incidents, according to a statement published Wednesday.

U.S. active shooter scenarios reached an all-time high in 2017 with 30 incidents, up 50% from the previous year, while active shooter fatalities spiked in 2017 to 729, more than three times the nation’s previous high of 214 deaths in 2016, according to FBI statistics cited by ASSP. Forty-two percent of active shooter incidents since the year 2000 have occurred in the workplace, the statement noted.

“While no one can completely prepare for horrific acts of violence, smart workplace strategies can help mitigate threats and better protect workers everywhere,” Brian Hammer, chair of ASSP’s technical report committee who spent 20 years in law enforcement, said in the statement. “There can be deadly consequences to being unprepared.”

The report outlines five key steps in developing an active shooter plan: determining the organization’s vulnerabilities; hardening the site with security cameras and badge entry systems; training staff via exercises such as tabletop drills, tactical drills and full-scale practice sessions; coordinating with local responding agencies so they know the layout of an organization’s building and can offer trips on preventing intruders and improving emergency response; and handling post-incident issues, including having a business continuity plan because the worksite could be closed for a period of time.

Management should designate a site safety and security response team to develop the plan, which should include a risk assessment of the location, according to the report. Threat assessments should be conducted using standard risk assessment practices and answer questions about how hard it is for a shooter to gain access to or move around a facility once the shooter gains access and what can be done to remove victims from the shooter’s path until help arrives.

Management should also address what human resources policy requirements may be necessary as part of the plan, according to the report. One of the examples highlighted in the report was discipline and employee terminations. Some workplace safety experts have expressed concern in the wake of a workplace violence incident in Aurora, Illinois, that employers are not taking proper precautions when it comes to employee terminations.

In addition to tabletop, tactical drills and full-on scale exercises, communication exercises are critical because experience has shown that communication is the quickest area to break down in any emergency situation, according to the report.

“It takes some work to be highly prepared for dangerous incidents, but the results are invaluable,” Mr. Hammer said. “You never know exactly what will happen, so practicing contingencies is key. We execute like we practice.”

The document has been registered with the American National Standards Institute, but is not an ANSI standard.




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