By Hao Nguyen
Chief Legal Officer
As the news continues to remind us on a daily basis, the number of incidents related to workplace violence continue to rise at a rapid pace around the country. We tend to think that these events are so far removed from our daily lives that they will never happen to us. However, the unfortunate reality is that businesses, even dealerships, need to be prepared for these kinds of events. I was much like everyone else and believed that workplace violence would never happen to me. A few months ago, I was reminded that workplace violence can happen to anyone at any time.
Earlier this year, I drove to a local dealership about 10 miles away from my house to help my brother trade in his vehicle for a newer model. After I helped him understand some of the paperwork, he said I should go home as he could take it from there. We said our goodbyes and off I went. Ten minutes later, I received a call from him. He sounded frantic and out of breath:, “There’s a shooter! I ran. Please come get me.” It felt surreal as I drove straight back to the dealership and found my brother in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant a few blocks away. I could feel my heart continue to race as he told me what happened.
As he was sitting in the office waiting for the finance manager, he saw eight or nine people run at full speed toward the back of the building. As they passed the office, one runner shouted,“Gun!” and my brother joined them in this dash toward the service department. After hiding for a few moments, one of the employees managed to open a gate which allowed everyone to escape over a fence behind the parking lot. My brother then ran a few more blocks till he felt safe enough to call me.
What then happened was what you would expect: law enforcement descended on the scene, one person was taken into custody, and the issue was thankfully resolved without injury. Unfortunately, I can only speculate about its long term effects on the dealership staff. What if this person had violent intent? What was the staff supposed to do? Are there procedures in place to keep them safe? This event gave me a better insight as to what we need to do at ComplyAuto in order to ensure that you are properly training your staff and giving them the tools necessary to keep them safe.
Why is This Important?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued its first ever citation based on workplace violence at a business and pointed back to the General Duty Clause of the OSHA Act.
The General Duty Clause requires that all employers must provide a work environment for their employees that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”
A security company in Idaho was cited for a “serious” violation of the General Duty Clause when a security officer was fatally shot while on patrol. The officer approached a patron who was openly carrying a firearm and asked him to leave the premises. The patron was known to security officers and the security company for openly carrying firearms in the past. The patron initially started to walk away then suddenly turned around and shot the officer three times. OSHA cited the security company because it “repeatedly exposed its employees at the [mall] to workplace violence hazards and failed to follow its own procedures for interacting with armed individuals to enforce the [mall’s] code of conduct.” For more information, refer to this article written by the team at Fisher Phillips. It is going to change your perspective on trainings and policies as we know it.
OSHA has stated that they are currently working on language for workplace violence regulations for the healthcare industry (the current industry with the highest workplace violence incidents) and the California Division of OSHA is working on proposed general industry workplace violence standards.
It is only a matter of time until OSHA follows suit to expand to the general industry.
Not only is it our job to provide a safe and healthy work environment for our staff, but it is up to us as owners, managers, and supervisors to ensure that they are properly trained to know what to do in a time of crisis. This is the perfect time to be proactive in your existing training and policies. ComplyAuto has made it its top priority to provide dealers with all of the necessary tools to further this goal. The next time you sign into the ComplyAuto dashboard, navigate to “Workforce” (Upper right and change the product to “ComplyAuto Workforce”) to take advantage of our free policy builders in the following areas:
- Active Shooter Policy
- Workplace Violence Policy
- Weapons in the Workplace Policy
The “Weapons in the Workplace” policy can be added as an addendum to the “Anti Workplace Violence Policy”, but not all states will allow an outright ban on employees or customers bringing weapons into a facility. In some states, the employer must provide a “safe space” for the weapon(s) to be stored if the company policy does not allow them to be carried openly or discreetly. Other states have different regulations entirely, so remember to be cognizant of your state’s laws and regulatory agencies when it comes to weapons in the workplace before adding any rules or guidelines to your policies. While you’re in the Workforce area of your dashboard, automatically enroll all of your staff into our free “Active Shooter” and “Workplace Violence” trainings by navigating to “Employee Training” tab in the dashboard and select “Settings” from the drop down menu.
Other things to take into consideration are your Emergency Action Plan Policy and Emergency Response Training at each location. Some questions to think about:
- Do you have a supervisor or manager in charge of doing a headcount of employees in case of an evacuation?
- Do all employees know which supervisor(s) to check in with in case of an emergency or evacuation?
- Do you have emergency contact information for each employee?
- Do all employees know where the evacuation points are located?
- Are all emergency numbers listed on labor law posters and in an easily accessible area for all employees?
- Have you coordinated a plan or additional training with local law enforcement professionals?
As we wait for OSHA to give specific guidance on these matters, the best practice is to always keep our staff ready for these types of incidents. As the saying goes, “failing to prepare is preparing to fail” and it could not be more accurate here. If you have questions about what your specific dealership should do to create or deploy training and policies for your employees, or would like us to help you create and manage your own processes, please contact us at email@example.com or reach out to your Client Success Manager.
As always, if new regulations or guidance are issued regarding workplace violence we will be sure to update our software and keep dealers abreast of any changes or updates.
This article should be used as a compliance aid only and though its accuracy has been made a priority, it is not a substitute for professional legal advice. Each dealer should rely on their own expertise when using it.
NHADA members: always refer to NHADA for specific guidance that may be applicable to your business.