work gun

Tragedy in Orlando – A Sobering Reminder that Your Workplace May Not Be Safe

By: Lisanne L. Mikula

On the morning of June 5, 2017, as employees at a small RV accessory firm in Orlando, Florida settled in for the beginning of the work week, a disgruntled former employee entered the premises and shot and killed five of his former co-workers before turning the gun on himself.

Violence in the workplace can take many forms-a cashier assaulted during a robbery, a psychiatric nurse injured by a mentally unstable patient, an employee who has been followed into the workplace by an abusive domestic partner-but violent attacks by co-workers and former co-workers are among the most shocking.

Managers and safety professionals at every workplace-no matter how small-should not only develop and implement a zero-tolerance violence policy, but they must also train employees to spot potential warning signs that an employee or former employee may strike out violently in the workplace.  Although there is no way to predict a violent attack, certain behaviors may signal future violence, such as:

  • Excessive use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acts of physical or verbal aggression
  • Expressions of the desire to injure oneself or others, or to seek retribution
  • Unexplained absenteeism, change in behavior or decline in job performance
  • Violation of company policies
  • Emotional responses to criticism, mood swings
  • Increasingly erratic, unsafe, or aggressive behaviors or paranoia
  • Hostile feelings of injustice or perceived wrongdoing
  • Marginalization or distancing from friends and colleagues
  • Sudden and dramatic changes in home life or in personality
  • Financial difficulties
  • Pending civil or criminal litigation
Employees should be trained not only to spot the warning signs of potential future violence, but they must also be encouraged to confidentially report their concerns to the appropriate management or human resources representative, who can then conduct an investigation and take appropriate remedial action.

Additionally, employers should develop an emergency action plan and train employees what to do in the event an act of violence is in progress or appears about to occur.  For example, employees should be made aware of all potential escape routes and know that if there is an accessible escape route during an incident, the employees should leave their belongings and get out as quickly as possible.  If a safe evacuation is not possible, employees must learn what to look for in a secure hiding place, including the steps to take to conceal their location from the attacker, such as silencing cell phones.   Employees should also be informed of the best and safest way to alert law enforcement authorities during a workplace incident.

Unfortunately, not all workplace tragedies can be avoided; however, increased awareness of the warning signs, proper training, and taking preventative steps can go a long way in reducing the number of employees who fall victim to workplace violence.

The attorneys at the Law Firm of DiOrio & Sereni, LLP are experienced and available to help you. Contact Lisanne L. Mikula Esquire at 610-565-5700, or send her an e-mail at
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The Law Firm of DiOrio & Sereni, LLP, is located in Media, PA and serves clients in and around Media, Glen Riddle Lima, Brookhaven, Wallingford, Newtown Square, Lenni, Springfield, Swarthmore, Chester, Aston, Bryn Mawr, Morton, Woodlyn, Broomall, Gradyville, Folsom, Chester Heights, Crum Lynne, Glen Mills, Marcus Hook, Ridley Park, Drexel Hill, Marple, Bethel, Garnet Valley, Chadds Ford Concord, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County.

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