April 22, 2016
Politics of Guns and Workplace Safety
by Mark Walls
Some employers post signs banning all guns. But this simple sign can be a recipe for disaster, for many reasons.
The politics of guns in America are volatile, divisive and passionate, yet the risks that firearms present to organizations every day do not depend on the politics of the moment. Employers must deal with the reality of gun violence in America. A RIMS 2016 session discussed the legal aspects of what organizations can do and the practical implications of creating a firearms risk management program.
- Michael Lowry, attorney, Thorndal Armstrong Delk Balkenbush & Eisinger
- Danielle Goodgion, director of human resources, Texas de Brazil
What Risks Do Firearms Pose?
OSHA states that an employer must provide “employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”
See Also: Active Shooter Scenarios
There are several risks to your organization, including:
- Operations can halt in the case of a shooting. You have issues like police investigations and possibly injured employees.
- Workers’ compensation will kick in if employees become injured.
- General liability will be activated to cover injuries of non-employees.
- Reputational risks are possibly the largest risks. You do not want your business associated with a violent act.
Most think that the Second Amendment bars private businesses from banning guns, but this is incorrect. The amendment applies to governments, not private homes and businesses.
Some employers react by posting signs banning all guns. This simple sign can be a recipe for disaster for several reasons:
- Have you created a duty? If you post a sign, you have officially created a duty.
- Why did you create this policy?
- What are you doing to enforce this policy? Did you have a manual? Did you put up X-ray detectors? Probably not. You have to be able to prove you are enforcing the policy if you post a sign.
- Did you train your employees to enforce this policy? If this policy is not enforced, a person might be injured by a firearm on your property.
“Bring Your Gun to Work” Laws
This is not a good idea. According to the law, business may not bar a person who is legally entitled to possess a firearm from possessing a firearm, part of a firearm, ammunition or ammunition component in a vehicle on the property.
In Kentucky, an employee may retrieve the firearm in the case of self-defense, defense of another, defense of property or as authorized by the owner, lessee or occupant of the property. In Florida, the employer has been held liable for civil damages if it takes action against an employee exercising this right.
Reputational risks also can apply. You could either get special interest groups protesting against your business or people who refuse to do business with you.
The Middle Ground
It is best to create a policy. Even if you support the right to bear arms, you can do it subtly. There are several provisions on what type of carry you allow and what signs are required. Business owners also do have the ability to allow no guns on the premises.
See Also: Broader Approach to Workplace Violence
Your policy should describe exactly how to approach a customer if an employee sees a weapon, including who should approach the customer, what to say and the steps to take to address the issue. Training is important.
- Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and Northeastern University found the rate of mass shootings has tripled since 2011.
- In 2014, an FBI study considered 160 events between 2000 and 2013. 70% occurred in business or educational setting.
- In 2000-2006, the annual average rate was 6.4 shootings. That jumped to 16.4 in 2007-2014.
This is clearly a problem that is getting worse, so why is training rarely provided? Places of business are a target – especially retail, restaurants and businesses in the hospitality industry. The active shooter wants soft, easy targets in large, open, public and crowded areas, and the goal is to kill indiscriminately. If your business is doing well with large crowds, you are a soft target.
Active Shooter Resources
To learn how to manage this risk, you can find resources from:
- Law enforcement
- Insurance partners
- Outside experts
- Human Resources
Online resources include:
- City of Houston: Run. Hide. Fight. Surviving an Active Shooter Event
- Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department: Surviving an Active Shooter