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Firms May Not Focus On Suspicious Workers In Advance Of Shootings

Updated: Nov 25, 2022

The mass shooting at a Walmart in Virginia is the latest example of a workplace shooting by an employee. While many companies provide active shooter training, there is less focus on how to prevent workplace violence, particularly how to identify and address worrisome behavior among employees. reports the Associated Press. Workers often don’t know how to recognize warning signs, and more crucially don’t know how to report suspicious behavior or feel empowered to do so, say safety experts. “We have built an industry around how to lock bad guys out. We have heavily invested in physical security measure like metal detectors, cameras and armed security guards,” said James Densley, a criminal justice professor at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Mn., and co-founder of the research group The Violence Project. Often in workplace shootings, he said, “ someone ... already has access to the building.” Walmart team leader Andre Bing, 31, opened fire on fellow employees in the break room of the store, killing six and leaving six others wounded. He then apparently killed himself. Employee Briana Tyler said Bing appeared to be aiming at no one in particular. Tyler was told Bing was "the manager to look out for." with a history of writing people up for no reason.


Walmart launched a computer-based active shooter training in 2015, which focused on three pillars: avoid the danger, keep your distance and lastly, defend. In 2019 after a mass shooting at an El Paso, Tx., store in which an outside gunman killed 22 people, Walmart discontinued sales of certain kinds of ammunition and asked that customers no longer openly carry firearms in stores. Densley said employers need open channels for workers to voice concerns about employees’ behavior, including confidential hotlines. He noted that often attention is focused on “red flags” and workers should be looking for “yellow flags” — subtle changes in behavior, like increased anger or not showing up for work. Densley said managers need to work with those people to get counseling and do regular check-ins. A federal report examining workplace violence over three decades found that workplace homicides rose in recent years, but were sharply down from a peak in the mid-1990s. Between 2014 and 2019, workplace homicides nationwide were up 11 percent from 409 to 454, down from 1,080 in 1994, said the July report by the Departments of Labor, Justice and Health and Human Services.

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