NORA AKINS

NORA T. AKINS

News of the deadly rampage killing ten people at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg Oregon joined the mass shooting headlines with the nine killed in a biker brawl and another nine killed in a church earlier this year. The statistics of mass shootings continue to climb with two more recorded by Mass Shooting Tracker as this article is written. Four more people were killed and five more were injured in these two incidents since the Oregon shooting.

The FBI defines mass killing as four or more victims resulting in a lesser statistic. The FBI investigated 172 mass killings between 2006 and 2011. Family killings account for 53 percent, public killings 15 percent and robbery/burglary 11 percent, leaving 21 percent unknown. Mass killings involve a gun 77 percent of the time. Handguns were used 72.9 percent and rifles 18.5 percent.

Mass killings often involve a failed safety net. The shooter behind the deadly rampage at Umpqua Community College had feelings of anger, about being isolated and unable to form relationships. He suffered from mental health issues and sought treatment. Gaps in the mental health system, ineffective protective orders, and immigration bureaucracy are incriminated in many cases.

Colleges, churches, movie theatres, streets and homes are all at risk. Places of employment are not free of risk. More than 500 workers a year die of work-related homicides. Shootings accounted for 78 percent of workplace homicides in 2010.

A recent case, Mayo v. PCC Structurals, Inc. involved an employee telling three co-workers he had plans to "take out" management. The coworkers reported the threats to management and the HR manager asked Mr. Mayo if he planned to carry out his threats. When he said, he "couldn't guarantee" that he would not do it, the HR manager suspended him. Mayo went on a medical leave and returned with a release from his psychiatrist. PCC Structurals terminated his employment and he sued under the American with Disabilities Act. The 9th Circuit of Appeals dismissed the case, ruling that Mr. Mayo was not a "qualified individual with a disability." The court created a narrow exception in the case of extreme and credible threats of violence.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) advocates a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence and provides recommendations to mitigate workplace violence. First, analyze physical hazards then provide training on workplace violence. Implement engineering controls such as bright lighting indoors and outdoors, install alarm systems and establish a reliable response system, consider metal detectors and closed-circuit video monitoring.

Administrative controls include establishing positive relationships with local police. Report all incidents of violence that occur at work to police. Require employees to report all assaults or threats to their manager. Request employees inform their manager of any protective orders. Have the manager work with the employee and management to determine what actions need to take place to prevent recurrence and protect all employees.

Management needs to respond to any complaint of threat or act of violence. Set up a trained response team to respond to emergencies. This team can be responsible to review, update and train employees in the workplace violence prevention program. Other duties are being the resource for all management in the event of any report, and developing procedures in the event of a violent incident.

Nora T. Akins, of Strategic Management focuses on employer compliance and employee performance by providing management training and refining human resource systems; contact her at 873-1735 or nora@managepeopleright.com.

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