In the wake of the recent workplace shootings at a sign company in Minnesota, employees everywhere are reminded that work may not be the safe haven that we often believe. OSHA requires that employees must have safe working conditions. If your employee handbook fails to directly address weapons on company property, you are not doing your best to protect your employees.

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According to the US Department of Labor, in 2010 homicide was the third largest cause of death in the workplace. In 2011, there were 700 deaths on the job. Of the 458 that were homicides, 78% of those were shootings. Of the 242 suicides, 45% were shootings. These statistics show that people are bringing guns to work every day. While it can be assumed that not all incidents were employee on employee violence, it stands to reason that many were. We cannot always control outside factors, but steps can be taken to protect employees from each other.

Owners have the right to ban guns in the workplace and, in most states, even in the parking lot. An employer’s weapons policy overrides any permit issued by the government, including a concealed gun permit, anywhere on company property. Having a policy in place safeguards employees, but it also protects the company from being held liable. Liability for an assault or shooting, in some instances, falls on the employer. Some insurance companies are now requiring companies to have a no-weapons policy in place before they will provide coverage for any claims. A weapons policy in the handbook outlining what is and is not permitted is important to not only ensure the safety of employees, but also to protect your company from lawsuits.

Every employee should feel safe and protected at work. Create a weapons policy and present it in a staff meeting. Provide time to answer any questions employees may have about what is and is not permitted on the job. Providing a chance for open discussion will go a long way to comfort employees concerned about violence or weapons at work. It is important to consult with your attorney when drafting a company weapons policy. This will ensure the policy is providing the desired level of protection for both your company and your employees. Stop employee violence before it has a chance to start. In addition to having a sound weapons policy in place, offering employees conflict mediation and an open door policy with management may help diffuse any potentially dangerous situations.

Sources:

Fatal Occupational Injuries and Workers’ Memorial Day. (nd.) Bureau Of Labor Statistics. http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/worker_memorial.htm
Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary, 2011. Bureau of Labor Statistics.http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cfoi.nr0.htm