The recent events in Paris are a stark reminder of how important gun safety is in the workplace. The armed men, who on January 7 killed 12 people and injured several others when they opened fire in the offices of French magazine Charlie Hedbo, allegedly did so for political motivations. Whatever the reason, this tragedy stresses the need to be prepared for potential violence in the office.

The shooting in Paris is just one of several examples of gun violence in recent years. The very terrifying – but very real – increase in cases of shootings around the world has made it impossible to ignore the possibility that it may happen in our own places of work. According to the latest data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010), 78 percent of all workplace homicides were shootings, resulting in 405 people being shot and killed at work.

While it’s almost impossible to prevent outside people from coming in with guns, you can establish effective workplace gun policies for your employees. However, even this is easier said than done. The debate over the right to carry guns rages on, pitting gun-rights supporters against gun-control advocates, even in the workplace. Meanwhile, HR and legal departments struggle to figure out what policies they can implement to protect not only the employees but the company as well.

When deciding whether to establish a workplace gun policy, it’s important to realize that there are two aspects to cover. First is whether to implement policies that either prohibit or allow employees to carry weapons at work, including the parking lot. Second is implementing safety policies and procedures that address what to do in case there’s a live shooter on the premises.

There are many different camps and opinions about prohibiting or permitting firearms in the workplace. Some employees, who may already have gun permits and go hunting regularly, may feel that it’s their constitutional right to carry weapons. Others may feel unsafe when they leave the workplace (like walking back to their cars late at night in a deserted parking lot) or even when they’re performing their jobs (like responding to calls at homes in dangerous areas as an electrician). But others feel that allowing guns in the workplace actually erodes safety since they’d be easily accessible for use.

When trying to determine whether to establish a gun policy in your workplace, remember to consider the following:

  1. Check the law. First and foremost, it’s critical to review your state’s laws on gun control, so you know what you’re allowed to do. For example, some states prohibit an employer from establishing policies that forbid employees from carrying firearms on company premises, as long as they’re kept in a secure and separate location like a car.
  2. Be ready to defend it. If you feel strongly that you do not want to allow firearms on your premises, you have to be ready to defend your policy and make sure it doesn’t infringe on your employees’ rights. This can be quite tricky, but remember that although the second amendment grants the property right to own a gun, an employer has the property right to decide what happens on his premises.
  3. Be clear. Once you draft the policy, make sure your employees are well aware of it. Just as with any other new workplace policy, it’s completely useless if employees are not aware of it or if they’re confused by it. Also, make sure to post it where you need to, as some states demand that a business-post any gun bans at the entrance of the affected area.
  4. Consult an expert. Seek advice when drafting the policy, both from your company’s legal department and from consultants from relevant organizations like OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Act). They will be able to guide you to reduce liability for the company.

Whether you opt to establish a workplace gun policy or not, it’s a good idea to have an active safety plan in place, in case of a shooting situation at work. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security website offers tips on how to deal with an active shooter situation, namely:

  1. Evacuating. If it’s safe to do so and there’s an accessible escape path, it’s recommended to leave the premises as quickly as possible. This means that all employees should be aware of their nearest escape routes, and know to leave their belongings behind and try to prevent others from entering an area where the shooter may be.
  2. Hiding out. If it is not safe to evacuate the premises, employees should be urged to find a place to hide that’s out of view of the shooter and that provides protection against shots fired in their direction. They should be advised to stay in an office with a closed and locked door, for example, and to remain quiet and hidden behind large items like cabinets and desks.
  3. Taking action. As a last resort, and only when their lives are in imminent danger, the Department of Homeland Security recommends that individuals attempt to disrupt or incapacitate the active shooter, to increase their chances of survival.

It’s tough to think that we need to be prepared for a person to open fire in the office, a place where we spend so much of our lives and where we should feel safe. However, this is the reality of the world we live in, and being prepared can make all the difference. Have you considered implementing a gun or violence policy in your workplace? Do you currently have procedures for dealing with an active shooter?

Adina Miron

3 Comments

  • Avatar Chris aka new_resource says:

    For the record unless guns and weapons are you business (and of course safety and security) I do not recommend having guns in the workplace. I look at these things like alcohol or drugs, you can’t use them at work, at most jobs anyway – again unless it’s your business.

  • Avatar Mary S. says:

    Due to the numerous gun violence workplace events that have happened in the last few years, I strongly agree that employees should not be permitted to carry firearms at work. I believe that the HR and Legal departments should join efforts in order to develop and implement workplace gun policies, in complete and total compliance with all laws.

  • Avatar disapointed says:

    that’s the dumbest thing i have ever heard. In light of a group of terrrorists who intentionally decided to shoot up a business you want to figure out how to keep your employees from defending themselves.

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