By Michael Copp, Executive Vice President
PHCC—National Association is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of GSM Services employees James Lewis and Robert Shook, two well-respected HVAC service technicians who were killed during a mass shooting that took place April 7 in Rock Hill, South Carolina. PHCC—National Association President-elect Joel Long is a co-owner with his brother Steven Long of GSM Services – a PHCC Contractor-member located in Gastonia, North Carolina, who in a statement issued by the PHCC of North Carolina, stated that “These were two of our best!” There is a GoFundMe account set up for the families.
A growing number of contractors are asking for guidance on how to minimize the potential of these horrific events when possible. Cal Beyer and Sheldon Beddo (2020), co-authors of the article, How to Prevent Workplace Violence During & After COVID-19, write that risk factors for workplace violence include: “mounting job loss through layoffs and terminations, expanding financial pressures, increasing sales of alcohol and recreational drugs, increasing reports of spousal and child domestic violence, escalating call volume to crisis hotlines across the country, increasing reports of suicidal behavior, and protests against government due to aggrieved personal and civil rights, or against a company for perceived lack of protective measures.” (Retrieved from the World Wide Web on April 13, 2021, here). The authors point out that stress can compromise a person’s ability to cope with conflict that typically builds up over time.
Micah Dawson (2019) writes in his article, Keeping Construction Sites Safe From Workplace Violence, “because construction jobsites are open to all different types of employees, subcontractors, etc., monitoring external threats can be more difficult. Still, employers need to stay diligent in preparing and updating their Emergency Action Plans or Onsite Active Emergency Plans. Having plans in place can help to anticipate and head off some incidents.” Dawson (2019) lists several steps that can be taken to include: developing an Employee Action Plan, active shooter training, “evacuation procedures and emergency escape route assignments,” and review onsite security. (Retrieved from the World Wide Web on April 13, 2021, here). Utility Contractor Magazine listed tips in its 2017 article written by Scott Gedeon, Five Steps Contractors Should Take To Prevent Workplace Violence, to include: (Retrieved from the World Wide Web on April 13, 2021, here).
- Educate and Train Your Employees – employers should consider implementing active shooter training as part of their workplace safety programs. Make sure to have accurate and updated information for all of the contractors on site to be able to communicate with them during a crisis situation.
- Develop an Emergency Action Plan – For employers with more than 10 employees, federal law requires that an emergency action plan be developed to include a plan for active shooter and other emergency situations. It should include a physical or electronic copy of the facility site plans, a roster of employees on site and employee contact information.
- Review and Update Employment Policies – Employers [must] review and update their employment policies relating to professional conduct, social media and progressive discipline before an emergency situation occurs. In the event that an employer terminates an employee, there should be a process in place to monitor that employee from the time the termination is carried out up until he or she leaves the worksite…
- Pay Attention if an Employer is Served with Legal Process – Management must make a diligent effort to monitor employees who are served at work with legal process such as subpoenas, divorce papers and other legal documents that may invoke a strong emotional response. Recommending EAP services can be especially helpful to employees potentially in crisis.
- When in Doubt, Ask – Employers should discuss the situation with legal counsel to determine what their obligations are, as well as contact law enforcement.
PHCC National’s Corporate Partner Federated Insurance offers “the Seven Minute Safety Trainer® to conduct training sessions with your employees. J. J. Keller® Video on Demand offers videos on preparing for, surviving, and recovering from an active shooter threat. The Training Today® learning management system also offers a course on reaction to and preparation for an active shooter. Log on to Federated’s Shield Network® for access.” They shared that “The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has developed a three-part response strategy, with the goal of surviving until law enforcement arrives. (Retrieved on the World Wide Web on April 16, 2021, here). An additional resource provided by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is worth reviewing and can be found here that includes links to FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute’s Active Shooter Online Training.
In an article, Workplace Violence Prevention; Readiness and Response, written by Stephen J. Romano, M.A.; Micòl E. Levi-Minzi, M.A., M.S.; Eugene A. Rugala; and Vincent B. Van Hasselt, Ph.D. (2011) notes that, “Vigorous prevention programs, timely intervention, and appropriate responses by organizations and their employees will contribute significantly to a safe and secure work environment.” (Retrieved on the World Wide Web on April 16, 2021, here). As Beyer and Beddo (2020) write, “It is often said in team sports that the best defense is a strong offense. Construction leaders are encouraged to take proactive measures to counter potential workplace violence through preventive measures. Maintaining frequent communication with employees and using reassuring language to reinforce a caring culture is a good first step.”