HEADLINES & HR: Employers confronting the issue of workplace violence in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting
It has been a while since we last wrote about workplace violence. Sadly, the recent mass shooting at a business in Orlando, Florida, has brought the issue back into the national spotlight. It also has employers re-examining how their companies can best safeguard against such tragic and traumatic events.
On Monday, a shooter described as a “disgruntled employee” who had been fired recently from Fiamma Inc., a manufacturer of accessories for recreational vehicles, fatally shot five employees of the company before killing himself. News outlets report that seven other workers were also at the scene, but were not hurt.
According to The New York Times, this was not the first time gunman John Robert Neumann Jr. had created a hostile work environment at the business:
Sheriff [Jerry L. ] Demings said that the authorities had been called to the same business in June 2014, responding to an episode of workplace violence involving Mr. Neumann, but no charges were filed then.
We are all left with a terrible sense of sadness by this incident, and with concerns for our own safety at work. And these feelings are not unwarranted: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says that about 2 million people are victims of workplace violence each year.
What can employers do about workplace violence?
“Workplace violence can deeply affect everyone in a organization where it occurs,” says Tina Hamilton, PHR, myHR Partner’s president. “These tragic events in the news are reminders that HR needs to be regularly trained and ready to respond to such incidents in order to assure that the well-being and emotional needs of the employees are met, and that the company can respond appropriately to the families and those affected.”
One thing employers and HR professionals everywhere can learn from the tragedy in Orlando is that workplace violence and safety measures are too important to neglect. There are steps companies can take to help reduce the risks, things like:
- Creating emergency plans that include clear communication and evacuation strategies
- Training all employees in harassment, bullying, and overall employee relations, including how to possibly diffuse cases that may be potentially violent “payback” scenarios, which can happen in workplace settings
- Performing good, solid background checks when hiring, whenever possible and appropriate
- Prohibiting weapons and firearms on all company property for non-security personnel, whenever possible by law
- Training employees and managers in how to recognize and respond to emergency situations and report them to the proper authorities quickly
- Carefully listening to references for job candidates being considered for positions, and taking note of exactly what is said, how something is said and what is left unsaid
- Instituting a workplace violence policy and putting it in employee handbooks
- Establishing a means of reporting issues for employees (and if need be customers) that they would feel comfortable enough to actually use
- Training managers on how to detect, circumvent and deal with intimidating, threatening or violent behaviors from within the workforce itself
Workplace violence and hostile work environments don’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, accepted as a fact of life. Creating safer, more positive places to work benefits everyone, and employers who make this a priority are to be commended.
(Image: @lbranox via rgbstock.com)