Walmart shooting raises need for workplace violence prevention – ABC4 Utah ‘ Utah

NEW YORK (AP) – Wednesday’s mass shooting at a Walmart in Virginia was just the latest example of a workplace shooting committed by an employee.

But while many companies offer active gunnery training, experts say much less attention is paid to how to prevent workplace violence, specifically how to identify and address worrisome employee behavior.

Far too often workers don’t know how to spot warning signs and, more importantly, don’t know or feel empowered to report suspicious behavior, according to occupational safety and human resources experts.

“We’ve built an industry that’s all about locking bad guys out. We have invested heavily in physical security measures such as metal detectors, cameras and armed security guards,” said James Densley, professor of criminal justice at Metropolitan State University in DePaul, Minnesota and co-founder of the nonprofit and nonpartisan research group The Violence Project. But too often in workplace shootings, he said, “that’s someone who already has access to the building.”

The Walmart shooting in particular raised the question of whether employees feel empowered to speak out because it was a manager who conducted the shooting.

That executive, identified by Walmart as 31-year-old Andre Bing, opened fire on co-workers in the Chesapeake store’s break room, killing six people and wounding six others. Police said he then apparently killed himself.

Employee Briana Tyler, who survived the shooting, said Bing didn’t appear to be keeping tabs on anyone. Tyler, who started at Walmart two months ago, said she’s never had a negative encounter with Bing, but others told her he’s “the manager to watch out for.” She said Bing has texted people for no reason in the past.

Walmart launched computer-based active shooter training in 2015 that focused on three pillars: avoid danger, keep your distance, and ultimately defend. Then, in 2019, after a mass shooting at a store in El Paso, Texas, in which an outside gunman killed 22 people, Walmart addressed the threat to the public by halting sales of certain types of ammunition and demanding that customers his stores no longer openly carry firearms. It now only sells hunting rifles and associated ammunition.

Walmart didn’t specifically respond to questions Wednesday seeking more details about its training and protocols to protect its own employees. The company said only that it routinely reviews its training policies and will continue to do so.

Densley said employers must create open channels for workers to raise concerns about worker behavior, including confidential hotlines. He noted that too often attention is focused on the “red flags” and workers should pay attention to the “yellow flags” — subtle changes in behavior, such as changing behavior. B. Increased anger or failure to show up for work. Densley said managers need to work with these individuals to advise them and conduct regular check-ins.

In fact, the Department of Homeland Security’s Active Shooting Manual states that recruiters have a responsibility to “establish a system for reporting signs of potential violent behavior.” It also encourages employees to report behaviors such as increased absenteeism and repeated violations of company policies.

But many employers may not have such prevention policies in place, said Liz Peterson, quality manager at the Society for Human Resource Management, an organization of more than 300,000 human resource professionals.

She found that in a 2019 SHRM survey of its members, 55% of HR professionals said they did not know if their organizations had policies to prevent workplace violence, and another 9% said they had such programs were missing. This was in contrast to the 57% of HR managers who indicated that they had received training on how to deal with violence.

A recent federal government report examining workplace violence over three decades found that the number of workplace homicides has increased in recent years, although it has declined sharply from a peak in the mid-1990s.

Between 2014 and 2019, nationwide workplace homicides rose 11% from 409 to 454. That was still 58% down from a peak of 1,080 in 1994, according to the report released in July by the Departments of Labour, Justice and Health was released and human services. The report found that workplace homicide trends broadly reflected national homicide trends.

But the rise in public mass shootings in the country is raising employers’ awareness of the need to address workplace mental health and prevent violence — and of the liability employers can face if they ignore warning signs, Peterson said.

In a high-profile example, a victim’s family earlier this year filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Northern California Transportation Authority, alleging it failed to address a history of threatening behavior by an employee who shot nine employees in a building called Light Railyard in San Jose in 2021.

The transportation agency released more than 200 pages of emails and other documents showing the shooter, Samuel James Cassidy, had been the subject of four workplace conduct investigations, and one worker had worried that Cassidy “postally could go”. This phrase comes from one of the deadliest workplace shootings in US history, when a postal worker shot dead 14 workers in Edmond, Oklahoma, in 1986.

“Workplace violence is a situation that you don’t think will happen to your company until it happens, and unfortunately it’s important to prepare for it as it’s becoming more common,” Peterson said.