The Importance of Workplace Violence Prevention Programs

On June 14, a UPS employee in uniform opened fire during a morning meeting and killed three employees and then fatally shot himself at a UPS warehouse in San Francisco. The gunman, 38-year-old Jimmy Lam, had filed a workplace grievance claiming he was working excessive overtime three months before the shooting. This tragic attack occurred just nine days after another workplace shooting at an Orlando factory, where a disgruntled former employee fatally shot five of his co-workers before killing himself on June 5. The shooter in that attack, John Robert Neumann Jr., had been fired from the company Fiamma Inc. in April.

In light of these recent tragic events, Employers and HR professionals need to ensure they have policies and procedures in place for reporting unusual behaviors and alarming actions of other employees. There are often warning signs before workplace violence ensues and employees must feel comfortable to express their concerns so that unusual behavior can be investigated. Further, all fights between co-workers should be documented and handled appropriately because escalating behaviors may be a sign of worse things to come.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires covered employers to maintain reasonably safe and healthy workplaces, which includes education and preparation for the possibility of certain incidents of workplace violence.

Employers should devote the necessary time and resources to set up a crisis management program to prepare their company to respond to a violent situation. Such a program should include implementing and maintaining a zero-tolerance workplace violence policy, developing an emergency evacuation plan, conducting evacuation drills and providing practical and effective workplace violence prevention trainings for managers. With workplace homicides on the rise, even small business owners need to be vigilant and understand that these situations can happen anywhere.