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:
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:
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?