by Tammy Binford
The September 28 shootings that killed six at a Minneapolis business put employers on notice that workplace violence can occur with no warning.
Other times, though, there are signs that employers should heed. The October issue of Minnesota Employment Law Letter contains an article titled “Employers look anew at preventing violence in the workplace.” It reminds employers that indications of potential workplace violence can include violent or aggressive behavior, threats, employees carrying weapons, and drug or alcohol abuse.
Although the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) doesn’t have standards addressing workplace violence specifically, employers are required under the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act to provide a workplace that “is free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.” That includes workplace violence.
OSHA says that an employer should be on notice of potential violence for many reasons, including documentation from industry groups or research that identifies a particular problem, documented individual employee complaints of workplace violence, or employer awareness of past cases of violence.
The article advises employers to evaluate the potential for violence and consider the feasibility of preventive steps:
- Create and communicate a written policy on workplace violence, complete with procedures to follow in response to violence.
- Complete a workplace hazard assessment and security analysis.
- Create an avenue for reporting threats or concerns of violence.
- Develop a response team to be responsible for immediate care of victims of workplace violence.
In the Minneapolis case, a man with a history of problems at work and mental illness apparently began the rampage after being fired from a sign-making business. The business owner and four others were fatally shot before the gunman then fatally shot himself, according to media reports.