The New Standard for Workplace Safety

One of the first responsibilities of an employer is to provide a safe workplace. It’s just the right thing to do. It’s also a good business decision, and a regulatory requirement (see OSHA Section 5). The COVID-19 pandemic has tested employers’ commitment to workplace safety. Many employers have passed the test and kept their people safe from the virus. However, as the virus yields to gradually rising vaccinations and workers return, they are being greeted by a second, often forgotten pandemic: workplace shootings. 

The COVID-19 pandemic initially seemed to reduce gun violence, including workplace shootings. Based on the tragic headlines below, it now seems clear that the temporary lull is over: 

It feels ominous and tragic to me that we’ve had four workplace shootings in the first two weeks of October. Historically, there has only been about one workplace mass shooting per year. A recent Ontic survey of 300 security leaders at large companies found that nearly a fifth of them (18%) have had to deal with an active shooter event at one of their sites in the first five months of 2021 alone. It feels like something has fundamentally changed in the threat environment. 

What’s driving the change? Experts recently interviewed by NPR theorize that potential shooters have had a lot of extra time to plan attacks during the pandemic and that there are more targets available now that more people are back at work in more locations. I would add a few additional important drivers: the prolonged stress and isolation of the pandemic, rising resistance to mask/vaccination mandates, the spread of extremist ideologies, acute political polarization, widespread social unrest, and widely available firearms. It has all combined to create a tragically perfect storm. The DHS and FBI summarized the threat their May 2021 joint report, saying “The greatest terrorism threat to the homeland we face today is posed by lone offenders, often radicalized online, who look to attack soft targets with easily accessible weapons. Many of these violent extremists are motivated and inspired by a mix of socio-political goals and personal grievances against their targets.” 

Given the current threat environment, how can employers best fulfill their duty of care in providing a safe workplace? The most obvious way to prevent shootings in the workplace is to keep guns out of the building in the first place. Most employers have policies to prohibit guns on private property, but they have largely been unwilling to enforce their policies through weapons screening. Why? Because screening for weapons with old metal-detectors creates a prison-like experience for workers and leaves workers stuck in crowded waiting lines that are just unacceptable in a pandemic recovery environment.  

 In an intensely competitive labor market, employers may feel forced to choose between a positive worker experience and a gun-free workplace, and when push comes to shove, they have often chosen worker experience. That choice is tragic because it is based on an outdated understanding of what’s technologically possible.  

 AI is transforming every sector of the economy, and physical security is no different. AI-based weapons screening like Evolv Express makes it possible to have both a great worker experience and a gun-free workplace. Reliable weapons screening that doesn’t require workers to stop and empty their pockets or surrender their bags as they walk through is a game changer.  

 I believe this disruptive new technology is redefining the standard for employers’ duty of care to workers. Having a “no guns” policy without any effective enforcement is no longer an option. If proven technology to enforce a no-guns policy is broadly available, operationally feasible, and commercially affordable, it won’t be long before board members are asking why management is taking unnecessary risks. 

 Sports stadiumsperforming arts and entertainment venues, and tourist destinations were the first to discover and implement the new standard in weapons screening because visitor experience and safety are fundamental to their operation. Now that the leaders in these industries have made their move to AI-powered weapons screening, the followers are racing to catch up. The same pattern will likely play out in industrial workplaces, citizen-facing government offices, health care facilities, office buildings, and other workplaces.  

 Now is the time for employers to reshape their workplace safety strategy to reflect the current threat environment and the technological disruption that is underway. The good news is that investing in meeting the new standard is not going to break the bank or be disruptive to normal operations. We’ve worked hard to innovate not only in technology, but also in our pricing model. Our customers (and their CFOs) are often pleasantly surprised by our subscription-based “security-as-a-service” pricing for Evolv Express. They also love that they can often train existing staff to use our equipment, so there isn’t a huge labor cost hurdle to overcome. As a mission-based company, we want to make it easy for employers to do the right thing for their workers. It’s a win-win-win situation.  

 As the pandemic recovery continues and seasonal hiring surges this fall and winter, more workers than ever will be walking into workplaces that are unprepared for the current threat environment. We should all hope and pray for their safety, but we can finally do much more than that. If you are an employer who is ready to do more, let’s talk soon

Peter George
President & CEO

Peter G. George has been Evolv’s Chief Executive Officer and President since January 2020. Prior to assuming the role of Chief Executive Officer at Evolv, Mr. George served as Chief Commercial Officer of Evolv from February 2019 to December 2019. Prior to joining Evolv, Mr. George served as President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Fidelis Cybersecurity, a company focused on threat and data breach detection, from March 2008 to August 2019. Mr. George also served as the Chief Executive Officer of Empow Cybersecurity, a company offering intelligent, AI and natural language processing solutions to reduce false positives during threat detection, from March 2018 to November 2018. Mr. George serves on the Board of Directors of Corero Network Security PLC (LON: CNS), including its Compensation Committee, since January 2019. Mr. George received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the College of the Holy Cross in 1981.