Guns in Alabama – Workplace Violence Prevention or a Bigger Problem?

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Guns in Alabama – Workplace Violence Prevention or a Bigger Problem?

This time last year I was preparing for a Firestorm workshop regarding Workplace Violence Prevention. I sent a promotional email to my contacts and one reply I got back from a furniture company was this – “Thanks for the information but all of our employees are carrying a weapon so we’re good.” I have yet to visit the store, but I’m still curious to see the reaction of customers when they notice their sales person is locked and loaded. Would that make people nervous? Does it make them feel safer? When walking into a gun store it’s expected, but a furniture outlet – not so much.  We are, however, in Alabama, where the number of concealed weapons places us at the top of the list nationwide. At least 12 percent or half a million Alabamians have concealed weapons.

guns in alabama 1Gun laws in Alabama declare that every citizen has a right to bear arms in defense of himself and the State. In May 2013, lawmakers approved new gun legislation that would stop employers from preventing their workers from having guns in their cars while at work, provided that are out of sight, locked up and adhere to certain conditions. There is a concealed carry permit required for pistols and rifles, and other hunting weapons are only allowed during hunting season, as long as there is a valid hunting licensed and a permit.

Considering the risk of workplace violence, there are some provisions to the law. One includes the fact that if an employer believes one of their employees presents a risk of harm to him or herself or others, then they have a lawful right to ask whether that person has a firearm in his or her vehicle. Are all employers mindful of what’s going on with all of their employees? Is there a monitoring system in place to recognize red flag triggers? If not, is it safe for them to carry weapons?

Alabama has one of the most recent workplace violence incidents when a UPS worker who was recently terminated from employment, shot two people and then himself at a Birmingham plant. In Oklahoma, another man, also fired, allegedly walked into his former food processing plant and beheaded the first person he came across. At the Chicago O’Hare Airport, police claim a man walked into the control tower and started a fire before taking his own life.

In the case of the Chicago incident, the former employee had sent a private Facebook message to a family member that stated “Take a hard look in the mirror, I have. And this is why I’m about to take out ZAU (the three letter identification for the control tower) and my life…So I’m going to smoke this blunt and move on, take care of everyone.”

The question to ask is – who in your organization is going to identify the red flag triggers before it is too late, especially if your company policy allows employees to carry guns on the premises.

There is no single solution for reducing violence in the workplace and every organization is unique. When establishing a plan, a company will need to consider their culture, history, size, industry and workforce before beginning to put together a solid Workplace Violence Prevention Plan.  At Firestorm, we follow a Predict.Plan.Peform.® approach, which consists of three phases:guns in alabama 2

In the Predict Phase, assess your current readiness level. You can’t begin to find solutions until you understand what current vulnerabilities and risks are present.  An organization “gut check” will help you uncover gaps, ascertain critical decisions and identify your needs for establishing an effective program.

Once you understand your vulnerabilities it’s time to move into the Plan Phase.  Do you have a workplace violence strategy? Who are the key personnel on board to help initiate the plan? Is there an established training and awareness program? You might be surprised how many companies have policies and procedures that their employees simply aren’t aware of.  This is the one thing you don’t want to keep a secret.

Finally, how would you react if an incident occurred? This is where the Perform Phase occurs. Will everyone know what “Code Blue” means if announced during a crisis? If you have plans in place, have you tested whether or not they actually work? Compliance is also important; do policies and procedures comply with industry standards?

Allowing employees to have personal protection at work is a personal choice.  Having a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan puts you in a better position to prevent or react to an incident.

For more information on how you can better prevent such incidents download Firestorm’s white paper on Workplace Violence and contact us today about how you can receive a no-fee Workplace Violence Self-Assessment.


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