One would think we are all desensitized to these terrible workplace shootings, but I find myself wrestling with the “whys” and “what to do next” following the San Bernardino, Calif., mass murders.
One point stood out to me in the early coverage: Party attendees lay down and were shot while on the floor.
Human nature seems to be to drop to the floor when one hears a gunshot, but this action flies in the face of guidance provided by the Department of Homeland Security and other experts. If a shooting occurs, run. If you cannot run, hide. If you cannot run or hide, then fight.
In mass shootings, the shooter’s goal is to kill as many people as possible. By lying down, one only presents a more readily accessible target. Every employee should be required to watch the DHS video on YouTube describing the “run-hide-fight” response.
Yet the onus isn’t solely on the employee. All employers should and probably do maintain an evacuation plan, but few employees even drill about it. Moreover, responding to a tornado, hurricane or other natural disaster is far different from responding to a fire, explosion, shooting or collapse of the electrical grid.
Atlanta-area employers would be wise to consider the following:
• How should you respond to such events and protect your employees?
• Do you maintain an Emergency Action Plan as required under OSHA regulations? Do you even know what triggers the obligation to have such a plan?
• Have you assessed your operation to determine where risks are present?
• Do you have employees making deliveries or going to customers’ homes unaccompanied?
• Have you had entrances and exits professionally assessed?
• Do management and human resources know when they should be concerned about potentially dangerous employee behavior, and what to do next?
If your answer is to point to a binder on a shelf, I would suggest that you roll up your sleeves and check.
If companies want additional motivation, OSHA is dead serious about inspecting employers and issuing citations for workplace violence exposures. Just last month, the agency issued such a citation against a VA Medical Center.
Given the poor mental health and narcissistic behavior of many shooters – and the possibility of homegrown or copycat terrorist acts – we must get serious about preparing plans and training employees. I fear the problem will become worse before it becomes better.
Howard Mavity is a partner at the Atlanta-based national labor and employment law firm Fisher & Phillips LLP.