Places of work, like other parts of society, are not immune to violence. Unfortunately, a major trend in workplace violence involves gun-related incidents, where an employee has brought a weapon to a worksite and has either injured or killed a fellow worker. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, hundreds of homicides occur in U.S. workplaces annually, the majority of which are the result of shootings. Homicides involving guns are the fourth-leading cause of occupational deaths in the United States and the leading cause of workplace deaths for women.
Through Occupational Safety Health Act (OSHA), the Congress mandated that employers provide a workplace “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” Many organizations follow OSHA’s guidelines, which recommend that employers “…eliminate or reduce worker exposure to conditions that lead to death or injury from violence by implementing effective security devices and administrative work practices, among other control measures.” In the 2006 SHRM Weapons in the Workplace Survey Report, 98 percent of respondents believe employers should be allowed to restrict weapons in the workplace.
The ability of employers to assess the safety needs of their organizations and establish appropriate policies – be it to prohibit, limit, monitor or permit weapons in the workplace – is paramount to the overall success and sustainability of their workforces. SHRM believes that decisions regarding weapons in the workplace should be left to each individual employer.
Over a dozen states have enacted into law varying proposals that restrict an employer’s right to enforce a no weapons policy on company property usually involving concealed-carry permitholders. Other states (particularly in the mid-west and the south) are expected to consider this legislation in future sessions.