Addressing the Growing Threat of Workplace Violence (APU)

Workplace violence incidents have tripled in the last decade, and it’s now the fastest-growing category of murder in the US. It’s also the second leading cause of death for women in the workplace according to 2014 data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In fact, the rates of murder and other violent incidents have intensified to the point that the US Department of Justice declared the workplace as one of the most dangerous places to be. It’s an escalating concern for employees and employers nationwide, with many cases going unreported. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 2 million workers in America are victims of workplace violence each year.

Active-Shooter Incidents Rising

An active shooter represents one of the worst examples of workplace violence. The years 2013 to 2015 saw the worst rate of deaths due to active shooters in a two-year span. From 2000 to 2015, over 1,000 active-shooter casualties occurred in the workplace.

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According to an analysis by CNN, the US accounted for 31 percent of all public mass shootings between 1966 and 2012 in the world, despite the US only having 5 percent of the world’s population.

Active-shooter incidents have tripled in the last eight years, with an event occurring in the US once every three weeks. Alarmingly, you are eighteen times more likely to encounter workplace violence and an active-shooter situation than a fire.

Financial and Insurance Ramifications

No amount of training, security guards, and warnings can totally eliminate the chance of an active shooter launching an attack. No employers are 100 percent immune to this phenomenon, nor can they totally prevent it. And the financial costs are staggering—from $6 billion to $35 billion annually.

According to the Workplace Violence Research Institute, neglectful hiring and negligent employee retention out-of-court disbursements due to workplace violence lawsuits averaged more than $500,000. Jury rulings in these cases averaged $3 million.

Workers’ compensation policies usually omit coverage for acts of lethal force or the threat of lethal force. You need separate coverage to shelter you against the aftermath of workplace violence. One option is active-shooter insurance. This coverage provides additional financial security for businesses.

What Companies Should Do to Prepare

Despite the escalating numbers associated with violence in the workplace, the average spend on workplace violence prevention by organizations is $4.50 per employee annually. There is opportunity for improvement with regard to workplace violence training, preparation, and prevention.

Employers can adopt these effective steps to lessen the risk and safeguard the lives of their employees:

  • Identify workplace risk and vulnerability factors. Organizations should perform a realistic and comprehensive risk assessments to identify the security vulnerabilities of their businesses and facilities to an active-shooter event.
  • Use security controls. These safeguards may include coded card keys and employee photo ID badges for access to secure areas, camera surveillance systems, on-site guard services, and other appropriate security measures such as metal detectors.
  • Foster a culture of respect and trust among workers and between employees and management. Companies must eradicate a bad culture of bullying or harassment by creating a zero-tolerance workplace violence policy. The policy should be plainly worded and specify how the employer classifies workplace violence, the conduct the policy prohibits, methods for reporting violations, and how these reports will be investigated.
  • Develop a workplace violence prevention program. This program can stand alone or can be integrated into your injury and illness prevention program. Regardless, it’s essential that all employees, including managers and supervisors, become familiar with the company policy and program.
  • Provide regular workplace violence prevention training. Simply put, it’s every employer’s duty of care to protect and safeguard their employees by training them to respond appropriately to active shooters. Seventy percent of active-shooter incidents occur in businesses versus campuses. Training conducted before such an incident actually occurs will help to bolster prevention protocols at your workplace.
  • Perform regular active-shooter drills. Drills should be established and conducted in such a way so as not to frighten or alarm employees. They should have an education focus and be designed to aid employees in retaining information that may save lives.

The American Public University System (APUS) Center for Applied Learning (CAL) provides a wide range of online training and educational solutions to help public and private organizations attain their workforce development and performance goals. Learn more at or email cal (at) apus (dot) edu.

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