illustration of a man with a handgun
Protecting employees & your jobsite from the threat of an active shooter

In Part 1 of this series in CBO’s March issue (read it here), the scenario involving your employee, Jennifer, took place inside your office, threatening your other employees. However, what are your responsibilities to your employees when they are outside of your office and at one of your jobsites or another employer’s jobsite? The regulations currently in place make the jobsite’s employer or owner the responsible party for jobsite safety. Thus, the senior manager at the jobsite is responsible for each employee’s safety for any emergency involving an active shooter. That being said, though, if your employee is injured or killed at that jobsite, his/her family and the authorities won’t hesitate to point a finger at you. They will say you knew or should have known that active shooters present a clear and present danger, and that they have quadrupled in number over the last 4 years. So how can you best prepare your employees to respond to an active shooter on jobsites remote from your office? First, make part of your contract due diligence to ensure owners of remote jobsites have emergency action plans (EAPs) and have trained their employees on an active shooter response plan. When properly trained, jobsite owners will respond on behalf of your people just the way you would respond to visitors on your premises. Secondly, you should work with the remote jobsite manager to ensure your employees are informed regarding response at the tactical level, both at their initial hire and frequently thereafter. Third, police this yourself by regularly visiting the jobsite. All emergency response planning and training should be site specific—meaning it should be customized and accurate to current conditions. The site visit is only one way to ensure that everyone’s best efforts work to reduce potential damage.

Return on Investment

These safety efforts at your offices and at remote jobsites are an incremental investment in your time and money. What is the return on your investment? If you are never struck by an emergency, your return on investment (ROI) is zero. If you are struck, then you are protecting your people, and you are protecting your brand reputation, which is arguably your most important asset. You are also protecting your bank account from the risk of a lawsuit. Most importantly, your people will appreciate your concern about their safety, which is their most significant issue at work. Your active shooter training will bond employees to your safety culture and increase their ownership in safety awareness and responsibility.


What is the biggest obstacle in training your workforce? Denial. The six phases of denial regarding emergency preparedness are listed below.

  1. It won’t happen to me.
  2. It won’t happen here.
  3. It won’t happen now.
  4. If it does happen, it won’t be that bad.
  5. If it is that bad, my insurance will pay for it.
  6. Why didn’t I plan for this?

Denial will stop you in your tracks. The scariest word in your organization is not “cost,” “price,” “budget” or “headcount.” The scariest word in any organization—yours included—is “change.” Change is painful, complicated, time-consuming and expensive. Change often comes from outside, blunt-force trauma, not from internal, inspired leadership. It often seems that we only have the capacity for change when a scary, lethal incident occurs nearby or to another construction company.

The ‘Jaws’ Moment

You remember the 1975 movie “Jaws.” It was a cultural earthquake. Every American saw this movie within 75 days that summer, and it scared everyone. This film’s metaphor was as follows: until you see the shark, you don’t respond. Shark unseen, you don’t believe the danger or the risk is present. Remember the mayor? He was in denial that there was a problem, so he denied closing beaches. That costs revenue for the town. He denied hiring more lifeguards because that would cost too much. Often, it is only when we see the shark circling our boat that we respond. When, an hour into the movie, we first see the shark, the movie’s hero informs the boat’s captain, “You’re going to need a bigger boat.” This is your “Jaws” moment. You have seen the shark, and you’re going to need a bigger boat.

Training Is Everything

Great plans are a smart thing; training is everything. OSHA requires training of all employees in a classroom, annually, at hire and by a trainer qualified by experience or training. On-screen training can supplement, but never substitute, annual and at-hire classroom training. You can see the repeated need for training for instant and ongoing response. Careful and detailed training of all employees is critical to saving lives, as well as complying with the law. You won’t scare employees; you will enlighten them with the solutions needed when your workplace is struck. Emergency training is never boring. It is all about your employees. Senior management should strictly police training attendance. It is required by law, and it’s also the only way employees will be safe when emergencies strike. Training is not complicated if it is structured correctly and delivered professionally.

Where to Start

Start with a threat assessment of your organization’s jobsite. Every national safety standard mandates an assessment at the start of your active shooter plan. Treat this assessment like a financial audit. Employ an outside, independent expert. When you conduct a financial audit, you employ outside, independent experts not because you believe your accounting folks are incompetent or don’t know the regulations, but because that is the best practice and it’s the law. Is safety as important to you as your company’s financial strength? Then, create and train your EAP to embrace your duty of care in order to keep everyone safe on your premises and remote jobsites. This should be an all-hazards plan. EAPs are required to better anticipate all foreseeable circumstances. You must plan for tornados, bomb threats, chemical spills, medical emergencies, lightning, workplace violence, active shooters and more. You have a duty of care to keep your employees safe. All of your employees will need to know how to respond in a split second, without your advice. Your employees will embrace training and appreciate you more for doing the right thing for them. You have seen the shark circling your boat, so let’s get started.