Recently, a Philadelphia jury awarded over $8 million dollars to the families of two factory workers killed by a co-worker in 2010. Concerns about the employee had been reported in the past, and she was suspended the day she committed the murders for making threats against co-workers. However, after her suspension she was not stopped by the factory’s security company from reentering the premises, where she shot and killed two co-workers and injured another.
The families’ attorney claimed in a pre-trial memorandum that the security guards were aware of the potential for violence, but were not properly trained and failed to follow protocol, including failure to escort the employee to her car, call 911, or notify employees that she had reentered the plant with a weapon. An expert report cited by the families’ attorney noted that had the guards followed the security program in place, the violence could have been prevented. The jury ultimately found the security company to be partially liable for the deaths of the coworkers. The employee, convicted in 2012, was also found liable by the jury.
Although such extreme violence is a rare workplace occurrence, there are valuable lessons to be learned by all employers from this tragedy. Review your workplace policies and procedures periodically. If you don’t have workplace violence and/or weapons policies already in place, it may be time to adopt and implement them. Training your employees on these and all of your workplace policies is crucial. Providing training can help ensure that they are grounded in all practices, including security and emergency procedures. Educating your employees can save your company valuable resources and may even help to save a life.