The recent shooting at Molson Coors in Milwaukee brings to the forefront the importance of understanding workplace violence.

Most of these incidents don’t make national news. However, every year on average nearly 2 million US workers report being the victim of workplace violence according to the Occupational Safety and Health administration (OSHA).

Workplace violence is defined as an act or threat of violence, ranging from verbal abuse to physical assaults directed toward people at work, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Many employers also consider workplace harassment and bullying to be forms of workplace violence. I would include domestic violence that affects the workplace as well.

What can companies do to protect their employees from workplace violence? Larger companies have an advantage with security departments and plentiful resources. But that doesn’t mean smaller companies can’t have a good, workable plan.

There is no single plan that will work for every company. Instead, each company should tailor a plan that respects their workplace’s culture, physical layout, resources, management styles, etc.

According to OSHA, the elements of a successful plan include:

  1. Management’s commitment and employees’ participation
  2. A worksite analysis to evaluate your organization’s vulnerability
  3. Hazard prevention, which includes identifying hazards and implementing appropriate controls to eliminate or substantially reduce them
  4. Safety training at all levels at least once a year
  5. Continuous evaluation of the program and updating as circumstances warrant

It’s also important to know the warning signs of a potential problem. In general, any behavior that causes others to feel uncomfortable or intimidated is cause for concern. This include disruptive, aggressive and hostile behaviors. It also includes exhibiting prolonged anger, holding grudges or blaming others for all their problems.

The shooter at Molson Coors had a long-standing dispute that came to a head right before this incident. It is important to remember that there is no absolute profile of someone who will commit violence. Anyone is capable of it.

As an employer, it’s important to encourage your employees to report suspicious or threatening behavior.  Make sure your organization’s culture supports this reporting and that your employees can trust that their reports will be taken seriously, that their identities will be kept confidential, and that appropriate action will be taken.

Despite your best efforts, workplace violence can still occur. This is where your planning and strategies for dealing with workplace violence pay off by helping to ensure that everyone in the workplace is prepared to identify a potential threat early, notify law enforcement quickly, and take necessary precautions to protect themselves.

As soon as they were aware of this dangerous situation, Molson Coors followed their plan and notified their employees by text and warned them to shelter in place.

There are many resources available to help employers create a workplace violence prevention program. State and Federal OHSA offices, NIOSH and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) are excellent places to start. I strongly encourage you to develop a plan to safeguard your employees and your business.

For more information on how to provide a cost-effective, trauma-informed approach to workplace violence prevention, please contact us.