Emergency Action Plans for Workplace Violence

Source: Andriy Popov - 123RF

With the shooting this weekend at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg, PA, there is renewed focus on the requirement for employers to have a written emergency action plan.

OSHA’s 1910.38 standard requires that employers with more than 10 workers should train their workers on that plan.

Staffers should be trained to recognize common stress indicators and to notice the objects co-workers are bringing to the workplace, as well as threatening comments made to fellow staffers or posted online.

As reported in OH&S Magazine, Don Moseman, a master instructor for the North Dakota Safety Council, outlined during an NSC 2018 session that 45 percent of these incidents are self-ended (suicide), 45 percent are ended by a victim or observer, and 10 percent are ended by law enforcement intervention. “We need to understand that it’s statistically likely that you will have no help,” he explained.

He said the shooters usually follow a three-step progression:

  • They feel trapped, usually because of either family troubles or financial difficulties;
  • Their work quality declines, they’re wary of management and co-workers, and they may complain constantly about work and isolate themselves from others; and
  • They plan the event, conducting surveillance and research, and most even share what they intend to do with someone else.

Moseman said companies’ policies should address these five key areas:

  • Describe what the employer defines as acceptable workplace behavior;
  • Outline reporting systems that employees are to use;
  • Include the formation of a team to review and investigate complaints;
  • Explain how an accused employee will be addressed during the investigation of a complaint against him or her; and
  • Address possible outcomes following the investigation.

“Human Resources needs to play an active role in applying the policies”, he said, adding, that “HR departments themselves are often the targets of an employee’s, or a terminated employee’s, anger and potential violence.”