On the heels of an announcement by the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) that that organization is fast-tracking an active shooter response standard comes word that the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is also taking steps to address the issue.

The ASSE convened a working group of safety and health experts to provide insights into the development of an active shooter technical report, which could guide organizations toward safer work environments with fewer hostile events. A related panel discussion with subject matter experts is also planned for the ASSE’s June conference in San Antonio.

“We are reminded far too often that workplace safety planning is never a finished product,” said ASSE President Jim Smith, M.S., CSP. “There are critical concerns that need our help in finding solutions, especially on the topic of active shooters because those occurrences in the workplace can have deadly consequences.”

Death toll rises sharply

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, incidents of workplace violence caused 866 deaths in 2016, which was a 23 percent increase from the 2015 total of 703. Workplace violence was the second-leading cause of on-the-job fatalities in 2016, trailing only transportation-related deaths.

Workplace safety standards can take years to develop. When a critical safety issue demands more timely action, a technical report can be produced, serving as an incremental step in providing initial guidance on that safety matter. A technical report can also be a value-added first step in the creation of a more detailed workplace safety standard. Both are consensus-based documents.

According to the ASSE: “While no one can completely prepare for such horrific acts of violence, safety and health professionals everywhere seek improved strategies to help their business leaders better protect workplaces.”

The meeting led by ASSE involved people experienced in law enforcement, industrial security and corporate safety compliance who shared important views on the first draft of ASSE’s active shooter technical report. The development process is expected to be completed before the end of the year, with the final report made available nationwide following its registration with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). ASSE began writing the technical report after its members and other stakeholders requested technical insight and guidance addressing active shooter events from the perspective of the occupational safety and health professional.

Panel discussion at Safety 2018

At its Safety 2018 Professional Development Conference and Exposition this June, ASSE will conduct a general session on the active shooter issue. A panel featuring experts from the Department of Homeland Security, law enforcement, corporate risk management and employee assistance programs will discuss how safety professionals can best prepare for, and react to, workplace violence. The session runs from 9:15 am to 10:30 am CT on Wednesday, June 6, at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio.

“The safety of workers in any setting is of utmost importance to ASSE, and unfortunately there is no industry or location that is risk-free in today’s environment,” Smith said. “Senseless acts of violence have occurred in schools, night clubs, churches, government offices, manufacturing plants, shopping centers and many other places. As occupational safety and health professionals, we must help employers pursue preventive measures and help get more people trained to recognize and report warning signs in order to mitigate risks.”