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Posted on April 18, 2023
The recent increase in mass shooter incidents has led federal safety officials to review employer responsibilities when there is a tragedy in the workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently cited a security company for a fatal shooting at a shopping mall.
In October 2021, a man fatally shot a security officer at a mall in Idaho. The security officer had approached the man, who was openly carrying a firearm in the mall. The man fired the weapon at the officer, who ultimately died from his wounds. The shooter was known to the security company as he had previously violated the mall’s prohibition on firearms.
OSHA enforces the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), which contains both specific industry standards as well as a “general duty” clause. The general duty clause requires all employers to provide a work environment that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” In this case, OSHA found that the security company had not taken precautions to prevent the shooter from gaining access to the mall, in violation of the general duty clause.
Lessons that employers should take from this case include the following:
An OSHA penalty may not be an employer’s foremost concern when it comes to preventing workplace violence, but these steps may help to prevent such an occurrence.
OSHA has also developed (non-binding) guidance on the subject of workplace violence.
AIM members with questions or concerns about workplace safety or any other human resource issue may call the AIM Employer Hotline at 800-470-6277.