The Walmart shooting heightens the need for workplace violence prevention

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dated: 2022-11-24 18:11:18 .

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

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

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

“We’ve built an industry around locking up bad guys. “We’ve invested heavily in physical security measures like metal detectors, cameras and armed security guards,” said James Densley, a criminal justice professor at Metropolitan State University in St. Louis. Paul, Minnesota, and co-founder of the nonprofit and nonpartisan research group The Aber Too Often in Workplace Shootings said, “It’s someone who already has access to the building.”

The Walmart shooting in particular raised the question of whether employees felt empowered to speak out because the shooting was led by a team leader.

Walmart identified him as 31-year-old Andre Bing, opened fire on co-workers in the break room of the Chesapeake store, killing six people and wounding six others. Police said he then allegedly killed himself.

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

In 2015, Walmart launched computer-based active shooter training that focused on three pillars: avoiding danger, keeping your distance, and ultimately defense. 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 public’s threat by suspending sales of certain types of ammunition and requiring customers in its stores to openly carry firearms. Now sells only hunting rifles and related ammunition.

Walmart did not 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 policy and will continue to do so.

Densley said employers need to create open channels for workers to raise concerns about worker behavior, including confidential hotlines. He noted that too often attention is focused on “red flags” and workers should pay attention to “yellow flags” — subtle changes in behavior, such as a change in behavior. B. Increased anger or absenteeism at work. Densley said managers need to work with these individuals to counsel them and conduct regular checks.

In fact, the Department of Homeland Security’s Active Shooter Handbook states that recruits have a responsibility to “establish a system to report 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, chief quality officer at the Society for Human Resource Management, an organization of more than 300,000 human resources professionals.

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

A recent federal government report examining workplace violence over three decades found that workplace homicides have increased in recent years, although they have fallen sharply from a peak in the mid-1990s.

Between 2014 and 2019, the number of workplace homicides across the country rose 11% from 409 to 454. That’s still 58% less than the peak of 1,080 in 1994, according to a report released by the labor ministry in July , justice and health, and human services. The report found that trends in workplace homicides generally mirrored national homicide trends.

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

In a high-profile example, the victim’s family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Northern California Transit Authority earlier this year, claiming it failed to address a history of threatening behavior by an employee who shot and killed nine employees at a Sano light rail station. Josip in 2021.

The transportation agency has released more than 200 pages of emails and other documents showing the killer, Samuel James Cassidy, was the subject of four workplace conduct investigations, with one worker worried Cassidy would “go postal.” “could have. This phrase comes from one of the deadliest workplace shootings in US history, when a postal worker killed 14 workers in Edmond, Oklahoma, in 1986.

“Workplace violence is one of those situations that you don’t think will happen to your company until it does, and unfortunately it’s important to prepare for it because it’s becoming more common,” Peterson said.

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This story has been updated to correct the location of Metropolitan State University. It is located in St. Paul, not DePaul, Minnesota.

Alexandra Olson and Anne D’innocenzio, The Associated Press

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