Week of August 2, 2010
This week a Connecticut truck driver opened fire on his co-workers after a disciplinary hearing. In what has been called Connecticut’s worst workplace shooting ever, the gunman killed eight people and wounded two others before taking his own life.
A tragic shooting that occurred just 16 miles from our corporate headquarters has employers in the state of Connecticut and beyond seeking new and better ways to protect their companies and their employees from workplace violence. On Tuesday, a truck driver accused of stealing beer and selling it to third parties opened fire on his co-workers after a disciplinary hearing that ended with him signing a resignation letter. Before taking his own life, Omar S. Thornton killed 8 people and injured two others during a shooting rampage in the Hartford Distributors, Inc.’s sprawling Manchester, CT, warehouse.
We offer our sincerest sympathy to the friends, families and co-workers of those killed in what has been called Connecticut’s worst workplace shooting ever. Our thoughts will certainly be with Hartford Distributors and its 130 workers when the company resumes operation next week.
Workplace Violence Prevention Strategies
Instances of workplace violence are far too common in the United States. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), approximately 2 million American workers are victims of workplace violence every year. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that on average approximately 800 people are killed at work each year. It’s important to note that the majority of workplace homicide victims have high-risk jobs, such as law enforcement officers or taxi drivers, and are not victims of malicious co-workers.
The following are a few steps employers can take to help safeguard the workplace from violence:
- Evaluate Your Risks — Identify common sources of aggression and/or violence in the workplace. Try to determine who is involved and why the incidents are occurring. Re-evaluate these risks regularly, especially if your company is going through any major changes.
- Create a Violence Prevention Plan — Create standard procedures for reporting, responding to and following up on a threat. In your plan, consider the risks you identified during your evaluation.
- Emergency Action Plan — Your company has a fire evacuation plan and participates in fire drills, right? You should also develop an emergency action plan and provide employees with strategies for protecting themselves during a workplace violence incident.
- Distribute a Violence Prevention Policy — This brief document should clearly establish that your company has zero-tolerance for aggressive and violent behavior, and that employees and management are responsible for maintaining a safe work environment. With a zero-tolerance policy in place, it is up to management to ensure that all incidents are dealt with quickly and appropriately.
- Educate Employees — Make sure all employees understand the Violence Prevention Policy. Have them sign an acknowledgement that they have read the policy and recognize the consequences for non-compliance.
- Offer an Employee Assistance Program — An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides employees with a free and confidential way to seek help with a variety of issues before they impact workplace safety or productivity.
Workplace Safety and Background Screening
Safe hiring practices also play a key role in workplace safety and security. The hiring process for safety-sensitive employees, such as truck drivers, is very stringent. When done properly, it includes no less than 18 sets of forms and prior employer, drug and alcohol violation history and motor vehicle report check.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s required checks offer a snapshot of a driver’s performance at the wheel, but they don’t provide the full picture. Many employers augment their mandated checks with a detailed screening package that includes a social security validation, criminal record checks, a national crime database search, nationwide sex offender check and Patriot Act search. Thorough background checks can help keep dangerous individuals out of your company, providing a safer environment for your customers, business associate and your employees.
www.FoleyServices.com • Vol. 110, No. 648 • © Foley Services, Inc. 2010