By Tyler Weston, President and Chief Operating Officer for The Noble Group.
“All available units respond to 123 Main Street… [YOUR BUSINESS]… shots fired, multiple victims with gunshot wounds, respond code 3.” Speaking from experience, this is one of the most chilling radio transmissions from a dispatcher that you can ever receive as a law enforcement officer.
The rise of workplace violence in the U.S. is on a steady slope up with no relief in sight. In fact, in 2021, the U.S. is on pace to have the most mass shootings ever, according to Gun Violence Archive. At the time I am writing this article, we have already had 379 mass shootings in the U.S. this year. Due to those incidents, 402 people have lost their lives and 1,586 were injured. Roughly 60% of these mass shootings occurred in the workplace.
Scary, I know. But there are ways to mitigate the risk of workplace violence. It takes training, preparation, policy development, security planning and implementation. It takes having situational awareness and an understanding of critical incident management.
Risk of Workplace Violence in our Industry
At times, the consequences that go along with the work we do in the drug and alcohol testing industry can put our places of business at an elevated risk for workplace violence.
When people perceive that they have lost everything, statistics show they can resort to undesirable behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse, suffer from mental health episodes and become increasingly violent. At the same time, we know they often blame others for their failures. A person who initiates a workplace violence incident does not have to be a current or former employee. It could be a donor who failed a drug screen at your business and now has lost their job. It could be that same person’s spouse or significant other. Though we do not control the results of a drug test or what happens after – we merely test for substances and report the findings – it’s not surprising that an unstable individual may blame you or your organization for their circumstances. This is especially true if you operate a collection site. Those people know where you are, who you are, and if you are not smart with your workplace safety, can walk right through your front door.
So, the million-dollar question is, “what have you done to protect yourself, your business, and your employees?” Yes, the annual safety training PowerPoint is better than nothing, but it is not enough. With increasing workplace violence, you must take the next step. That involves bringing in experts in the field to thoroughly understand your business operation. Do you have an emergency action plan? Do you have site security measures in place to prevent unwanted people from entering your building? Do your employees know what to do in the event of an active shooter inside your business? These questions need to be addressed now because when an incident takes place, it is too late.
Workplace Safety Basics
First and foremost, if you operate a business that any outsider can freely walk into, think again. I understand that retail stores are fully accessible by anyone, but we aren’t talking about retail stores here. Your business potentially “failed” someone on a drug screen. This individual may believe that you ruined their life or caused them to lose their job. They want revenge. Proper access control to your building is paramount. I suggest if you can, keeping your exterior doors always locked. Install a key fob system for access control. Use a camera/buzzer system to have people announce who they are, prior to letting them in. Consider that these are the type of systems just about every school district uses today.
Next, work with your local law enforcement. Get them the blueprints of your building, hang big, bold, letters or numbers in each of your doors/windows. This helps first responders to orient themselves to an active incident when they arrive on scene. The blueprints you give them should designate each lettered/numbered door and window. Have them walk you through their response to an active shooter incident. It is important that you and your employees understand how this works. Remember, these incidents are fluid and chaotic. The officers have one job when they arrive and that is to stop the threat at all costs.
Lastly, and most importantly, training, training, training! Take the time to train your employees on situational awareness and critical incident management. Most active shooters exhibit red flags prior to becoming violent. If a drug screen failed donor tells your collector(s), “I’m going to come back and make you pay.” Take that seriously! Notify local law enforcement immediately. Most workplace violence incidents can be stopped if we speak up. Conduct at least annual training sessions with your employees on active shooter response. This training should include important points such as:
- Call 911 and follow your emergency action plan
- Leave all your items where they are
- GET OUT!
- If you cannot get out, barricade yourself in a room and in a position that will stop bullets
- Be prepared to fight back
This type of training should instill confidence in your employees and make them feel safe when they are performing their jobs. Ask your business insurance agent if you could get a discount for performing this type of training. Some companies do.
I’ll leave you with this one final thought – don’t be a victim and don’t be that business that is in the headlines of every major news channel because you failed to properly plan and train for crisis situations. The fallout from these events is far worse – mental health, extreme stress, lawsuits, OSHA fines, business stoppage, etc. Millions of dollars will be spent to right the ship. Don’t let it sink in the first place…
About the author: Tyler Weston is the co-founder and CEO for Noble Six, Inc., a business within the greater Noble Group, focused on workplace safety, situational awareness, and critical incident management training. Tyler served in the United States Marine Corps for six years as an Infantry Squad Leader and for seven years in law enforcement. He also is the NDASA State Partner referrals Caucus Representative for the State of Wisconsin. The experts at Noble Six, Inc., teach businesses how to mitigate risk. They are a group of current and former SWAT law enforcement officers and military operators with more than 150 combined years of real-world experience. For questions/comments or to speak with a Noble Six representative about your workplace safety needs, please visit www.noblesix.us or call (262) 777-2277.