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SLC 2024 Preview: An Active Shooter at the Workplace

May 1, 2024
Stop thinking it can't happen to you. Here's what you need to know to be prepared for an active shooter situation.

Greg Pass, director of safety at YKK Corporation of America, knows all too well what can happen when you assume “It can’t happen to me.”

Several years ago, an active shooter came to his workplace. It was an employee.

Pass will speak about his experiences at the 2024 Safety Leadership Conference that’s taking place Aug. 26-28 in the greater Denver area. More information, including registration, can be found here. Below is a preview of what to expect from his presentation.

EHS Today: Your presentation is about a topic that we all know about but don't necessarily want to talk about: an active shooter situation. Can you give us a brief description about what happened at your workplace?

Pass: Our company had two employees—one of whom was a temporary—who had been arguing for a few days. It was never determined if it was work- or personal-related. But one night, around 11 p.m. in July of 2019, they were going on break after they had been arguing. The temporary employee started walking in the opposite direction when he pulled out a gun and started shooting at the other employee. He shot five rounds and hit the employee once. Thankfully, the employee survived.

Gun violence is a hot-button issue. How do you address it in the context of workplace safety?

Gun violence is only one part of a workplace violence program. Companies must develop materials to address other types of workplace violence, from harassment to bullying, as well as conflict resolution materials. Human resources has to play a role in training, offering assistance, and establishing open door policies and hotlines.

It's up to the politicians to take up any legislation, but what are some steps employers can take to make workplaces safer?

I have been in safety for over 40 years. Like many, I thought a shooting wouldn’t happen here. But it did. During the investigation stages, we hired an outside consultant to review our facilities. I thought I understood the risks and had the corrective actions in place. I wasn’t even close.

I will discuss more about what I learned at the conference, but a few examples of the things I was asked include:

  • How many manufacturing facilities have preventive maintenance programs for external lighting?
  • Are they on timers that never get changed during spring or fall to account for daylight savings time?
  • Who is responsible for looking at all the external lighting after dark, parking lots and doors?
  • Do companies allow employees to have visitors for lunch?


Can you tell me a few things that your workplace has done since that fateful day to better protect and prepare employees from future active shooter situations?

We conducted a security assessment of external and internal parameters of the property. The assessment identified many areas, which have since been improved upon. I would say the most comprehensive change was security cameras. Many of the ones in place didn’t operate correctly, and we had very few external cameras.

What's something safety professionals need to learn about active shooters?

Safety professionals should realize that they are not the police and workplace security plans are everyone’s responsibility. We may be the guiding force, but everyone has a role in keeping workplaces safe.

What's something safety professionals need to unlearn about active shooters?

That shooters are not always someone with tactical gear, dressed in black and armed with assault rifles and tactical gear. It could be an employee who has a weapon in his glove compartment, gets upset at work, retrieves it and opens fire.

What's one thing you hope attendees take away from your session at the Safety Leadership Conference?

I hope that the attendees dispel the mindset that active shootings won’t happen at my facility. Lose the mentality that we are safe because we are a small organization with 50 employees in a rural area; these companies need a workplace security program as well.

Similarly, larger companies need to dust off their workplace violence program and consider hiring someone from outside the company review it. We did that, and their findings opened my eyes to the vulnerabilities we had.

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