Businesses were given a tragic reminder that workplaces can turn deadly when three employees were killed — and two were injured — after a fellow employee went on a shooting spree in October at his workplace in Hartford County.
The attack took place at Advanced Granite Solutions located in the Emmorton Business Park – and even led to a temporary suspension of filming of a “House of Cards” episode by Netflix, which was taking place nearby, news reports said.
The suspect, Radee Prince, 37, (pictured above) was arrested in Delaware. He was indicted Monday on an auto shop shooting in Wilmington in addition to facing charged in the Oct. 18 shooting five co-workers at an Edgwood granite business, three of whom died.
Nationally, 4,679 fatal workplace injuries were reported in the United States during 2014, and 403 were workplace homicides, according to a U.S. Labor Department report. In fact, close to 2 million U.S. workers report being victims of workplace violence each year, the report adds.
Incidents like the one in Hartford County illustrate to the region’s CEOs and other top management that they need to prepare for possible workplace violence at their businesses and if, tragically, violence takes place, appropriate steps need to be taken in response.
“Although the risk of workplace violence cannot be eliminated entirely, employers can take proactive steps to reduce the likelihood that an incident occurs,” James Murphy, an attorney at the Washington, DC office of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, told SmartCEO. “It’s all about advance planning.”
Murphy says that the board and CEO need to be “educated about the measures needed to mitigate and manage the risk of employee violence.” Similarly, they “need to hold management accountable for developing training programs and ensuring that adequate procedures are in place,” he adds.
For instance, before an incident, the CEO and senior executives should develop threat-assessment procedures and a crisis management plan, Daniel Prywes, an attorney at the Washington, DC office of Morris, Manning & Martin, said.
“CEOs may not know that incidents of workplace violence can often be prevented,” adds Marisa Randazzo, managing partner of Virginia-based SIGMA Threat Management Associates.
“Boards, CEOs and other C-Suite personnel can provide vital leadership to a company’s violence prevention efforts by ensuring the company meets or is working toward meeting the … national standard on workplace violence prevention,” Randazzo said. She cited the national standard on workplace violence prevention from the Society for Human Resource Management and ASIS International, a security management association, that provides a “roadmap” companies can follow to help prevent workplace violence.
“One key component is developing a multi-disciplinary team that is responsible for addressing reports of threatening or potentially violent behavior, whether from current or former employees, customers, vendors, domestic partners of employees, or from external persons who may want to harm that workplace even if they have no affiliation to the company,” she explained. The team can be trained in behavioral threat assessment.
“Prior to many incidents of workplace violence, different people often know that the person in question is thinking about or planning to engage in workplace violence, or has other significant concerns about that person’s behavior – but they don’t know where to report those concerns or how to help that person,” she said. “A workplace threat assessment team is trained how to seek out those pieces of the puzzle, put them together to figure out if the person in question is planning to engage in violence, and figure out how best to stop them from becoming violent. Oftentimes, connecting the person in question with the right help and support — to address financial stress, career stress, personal stress, etc. — can keep them from resorting to violence.”
Also, the earlier the team can be alerted to concerns, the more tools and strategies they will likely have available to provide early intervention and support, Randazzo said.
Jodi Jacobson Frey, a social work professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, further explains that the threat assessment team meets regularly to conduct “an environmental scan” of risks of violence and what might be needed to prevent future incidents or to respond to incidents. “When an incident or potential incident is reported, the team should meet and discuss the facts, risks and potential options in an effort to respond effectively and efficiently,” she said. The team often includes representatives from safety, security, legal, human resources, employee relations, employee assistance program and management, among other departments, Frey said.
Beyond setting up the multi-disciplinary team, Randazzo said businesses can:
- Go to experts in behavioral threat assessment when cases are complex.
- Encourage employees to report threatening or troubling behavior to the company’s security department, human resources department, or anonymous tipline.
- Use workplace safety apps, such as LiveSafe, to give employees a discreet way to report concerns.
- Companies can also provide active shooter training, such as Run, Hide, Fight, to employees to explain how to respond to an active shooter.
Moreover, mid-level managers can help prevent workplace violence by “responding early to workplace grievances in a fair manner and by knowing the types of threatening or concerning behavior that should be reported to a multi-disciplinary threat assessment team,” Randazzo said.
“Mid-level managers must be alert in identifying employees who may exhibit signs of extreme anger or threatening behavior,” Prywes adds. “This must be done in a conscientious manner, and not to settle scores. Mid-level managers should also be trained to provide leadership to other employees, and to adhere to a crisis management plan, if a threatening event does occur.”
Frey also advises that mid-level managers “adopt an open-door policy for employees so that they may feel comfortable talking about potential threats or incidents of violence, including bullying, harassment, verbal and of course physical threats or assaults. Mid-level managers also need to help translate messages of zero-tolerance for workplace violence by acting quick to de-escalate situations or call in the threat assessment team to help assess situations…”
Individual employees have an important role to play, too. “Individual employees should be taught the kinds of threatening and troubling behavior that should be reported to a multi-disciplinary threat assessment team and be strongly encouraged to report such behavior to the team or to someone else in the company who can respond,” Randazzo said. “Employees should be offered training on what behaviors to look for and how to de-escalate hostile situations… It doesn’t matter what an employee’s title is or how long — or short — a time they have been employed at the company, they may be the first person to become aware of troubling or threatening behavior – or to be worried about a co-worker’s safety or welfare. If they are worried or feel threatened or feel unsafe, they should report those concerns to the company.”
She also recommends that a business’s corporate security department be encouraged to develop relationships with local and state police. Local and state police officers could attend threat assessment training. Companies can also contact the nearest FBI field office to find out if there is an FBI agent who can discuss physical security and threat assessment with the business. “Many law-enforcement authorities will provide free consultations on safety and evacuation programs,” Prywes said. “Firms should also form a crisis-management plan in advance of any incident to ensure effective communication and coordination with first-responders and law enforcement.”
Jane Lipscomb, a retired professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing, says an organization needs to establish, too, a relationship with local law enforcement and have officers visit a business/organization to understand the environment/risks.
In addition, Murphy says employees and managers should be given regular training on how to spot potentially violent behavior and when — and to whom to — report it. “One-time training is insufficient,” he said. “Training should be conducted for new hires and then annually or biannually thereafter. Where possible, dress rehearsals can be particularly valuable.”
Also, if a violent incident takes place, Prywes recommends:
- Evacuating the workplace.
- Offering assistance to police and first-responders in neutralizing the threat.
- Activating the crisis-management plan.
- Providing cooperation with law enforcement in any post-incident investigation.
- Offering crisis counseling to affected employees and financial support for any casualties or their families.
- Return the business to a fully functioning state as soon as possible.
- Act diligently to prevent a recurrence.
- Assure employees and the public that the threat has been neutralized.
- Ensure electronic, video and other forms of evidence are preserved.
Also, Murphy advises that “all incidents should be taken seriously.” Some issues, he says, “can be addressed by putting an employee on leave for psychological evaluation and mandatory counseling…. Promptly alerting the police is often a good idea, since they can to restore order and, perhaps, prosecute offenders. As a general rule, employers should promptly remove from the workplace any employee responsible for threats or acts of violence or anger in the workplace. Many employers have a zero-tolerance policy for threats or acts of violence in the workplace. By removing those employees from the workplace, whether by termination, suspension, or some form of leave, the risk of escalation or recurrence is eliminated. It is important in those situations, however, to ensure that, once terminated, those employees are not able to access company facilities or parking areas to carry out acts of vengeance.”
If an incident takes place, Frey also points out that “employees will be looking to their leaders at work for accurate information … and for support so that they can feel comfortable and safe returning to work.”
“The more an employer can do to show they care and that they are committed to trying to prevent future incidents — will help immensely as they work to return to pre-incident levels of productivity,” Frey said.
The public and customers also need reassurance from the business. “Once an incident occurs, they [CEOs] must be the face of the company to the public,” Prywes said. “They must be prepared to effectively and accurately project the message that the incident has been resolved and that the business can continue to operate effectively.”
The emotional support described be experts is evidenced by the online statement released recently by Advanced Granite Solutions announcing the reopening of the business. It said in part,
“We are a family business with over 35 employees who have a lot of love and respect for each other. Every member of AGS is considered family and our bonds are so strong that even last week’s tragic event could not disrupt us. We are mourning the death of our three wonderful men and praying for quick recovery for the injured. Our staff has shown a lot of tenacity and resilience during this difficult time, and we are forever grateful for their support and compassion. After careful consideration and consulting with our team, we have decided to open our doors today, October 25. Despite the devastating event last week, AGS remains strong thanks to the support of our amazing employees, families, friends, customers, business partners and our community. Once again, we would like to express our gratitude to the Harford County Sheriff’s Office as well as the first responders who rushed to our aid. We are dedicated to continue providing excellent service to our customers, sustaining our growth and making sure that each and every member of the AGS family receive the support they need.”
A donation webpage was set up for the victims and their families.