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Occupational Keynote: Don’t remain in denial, develop plans for active shooters and workplace violence

Jack Jackson

San Diego — Jack Jackson’s friend was among four people killed in a workplace shooting in July 2003 in Jefferson City, Mo.

“If you had asked me just the day before, ‘Would this ever happen here (in my community)?’ I would have told you, ‘No way!’ I was in denial,” said Jackson, a senior safety consultant with SafeStart, who presented the Occupational Keynote on Tuesday at the National Safety Council 2019 Congress & Expo.

Jackson shared statistics showing that 34 workplace shootings have occurred in the United States since the beginning of 2017, six more than the period from 2000 to 2009. Instead of thinking it can’t happen at their workplaces, he urged audience members to develop active shooter plans and practice them, because “denial can equal delay.”

Denial can come in an auditory form, with people thinking gunshots sound like fireworks or a car backfiring. Any subsequent delay can prove deadly because workplace shootings typically last 10 to 15 minutes from start to finish, Jackson said.

He added that the three typical responses to danger are flight, fight or freeze.

“Freeze is the worst possible action,” he said. “You have to have a plan in place, and it will reduce your chances of freezing in that situation.”

Jackson also spoke about workplace violence and recommended a zero-tolerance policy that is included in employee handbooks and covered during orientation. Workplace violence affects 2 million people annually, according to OSHA, but 25% of incidents go unreported, Jackson said.

Among his recommendations were better communication and having employees make better use of assistance programs. Although 74% of workplaces have employee assistance programs, he said, only 7% of workers use them.