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February 26, 2016
Gunman kills 3 at town’s major employer
By Ana Ellington, Legal Editor

On the heels of the recent shooting rampage by an Uber driver in Michigan, an assembly-line painter at the Excel Industries lawn mower manufacturing plant in Hesston, Kansas, killed 3 and injured 14 in a shooting spree.

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Most victims were the suspect’s coworkers. According to Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton, about 150 people were working at the plant at the time of the shooting.

Authorities arrived within minutes of the reported shootings. The first police officer on the scene shot the gunman dead.

A growing problem

Workplace violence is a growing problem in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 2 million workers are injured every year, and more than 800 die as a result of workplace violence. This has a devastating effect on the productivity of a business and on employees’ quality of life.

Another example of the problem is the rampage at the social services facility in San Bernardino, California, where 14 people were killed at a workplace holiday party.

This increase in mass shootings has elevated gun control as a major campaign issue in the presidential election.

Combating violence

Employers need to know that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has indicated that it will be inspecting incidents of workplace violence and will use the General Duty Clause to cite employers if “recognized hazards” that led to or could lead to incidents of workplace violence are identified.

As an employer, you should develop a comprehensive, written workplace violence prevention program. The following components are essential to an effective program:

  • Job hazard assessment—assessing violence hazards. The program should describe methods for determining the extent of the problem, documenting incidents, and evaluating the program.
  • Preventing and controlling violence hazards. The program should use the information gathered from the hazard assessment to implement different methods of minimizing or eliminating the risks for workplace violence.
  • Employee training and information. All employees should participate in training on the risks of workplace violence. The employee training and information program includes information regarding how to report concerns and where to locate the company policy and program on violence.
  • Reacting to violence (postincident response). If violence occurs, employers and workers should be prepared to deal with the aftermath. This includes assessing the causes of the problem, making appropriate changes in the workplace, and providing the psychological support needed for the victims of the violence.

Your written workplace violence policy should clearly indicate a zero tolerance of violence, whether the violence originates inside or outside the workplace. Just as workplaces have developed mechanisms for reporting and dealing with sexual harassment, you must also develop threat assessment mechanisms to which threats and violent incidents can be reported—even anonymously.

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