Workplace Violence: Protecting Yourself and Others


Within a matter of 24 hours, three separate workplace shootings rocked our country. In Madison, Wisconsin, an employee unleashed gun fire outside of his work injuring four people. Later that day, another shooting took place outside of a courthouse in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania injuring four people. And the very next day, a Rite-Aid employee opened fire within the company’s Maryland distribution center fatally injuring three of her coworkers.

Workplace violence has unfortunately become a reality. It’s shocking, unsettling and unnerving, but something that you should be aware of as a worker. What’s become increasingly important as a result of these tragic events is becoming aware of how to respond to an active shooter or violent act. The best way to do so is the Run, Hide, Fight method. 

Here’s how to respond to an active shooter/attacker:

RUN: If there is no immediate threat to your location, seek escape by a safe route/exit. Call the police once it is safe to do so and try to give as much detail as you can about the location and the shooter (number of shooters, appearance, weapons) if possible. Try to prevent unaware employees from entering the building.

HIDE: If evacuation is not a safe option, go to a secure area, lock or barricade doors, block windows/close blinds, turn off any lights, silence your phone, remain quiet and out of sight. Plan for if the shooter gains entry.

FIGHT: As a last resort, and only if your life is in imminent danger. Look for things that can be used as weapons to throw and strike the shooter/attacker. Don’t hesitate or negotiate, strike hard and commit to your actions.

When law enforcement arrives (usually in teams of four), it’s important to remember, they do not know who the shooter is. Remember to keep these in mind when law enforcement arrives:

  • Remain calm and follow their instructions
  • Put down any items in your hands
  • Raise your hand and spread your fingers
  • Keep your hands visible at all times
  • DO NOT make any quick movements toward the officers
  • DO NOT point, scream and/or yell
  • DO NOT ask the officers for help or direction when evacuating

Be aware that the first officers to arrive on the scene will not stop to help injured persons. Rescue teams of additional officers and emergency medical personnel will follow the initial officer. These rescue teams will treat and remove any injured persons.

Once you have reached a safe location or meeting point, law enforcement will likely hold you there until the situation is under control and all witnesses have been identified and questioned. Do not leave until law enforcement has instructed you to do so.

5 Workplace Safety Hazards to Avoid

OSHA has also released helpful materials on workplace violence to help employers establish a zero-tolerance policy and violence prevention programs. Their guide also includes information on how to protect yourself as an employee, including alerting your supervisor about safety concerns and learning how to recognize and avoid potentially dangerous situations. 

To millions of working Americans, the thought of workplace violence is terrifying. By learning more about prevention and safety tactics you’re helping to protect yourself and your coworkers against this growing concern.


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