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Legislature approved three workplace safety laws this year

 The Journal Record | June 7, 2019

OKLAHOMA CITY – A coalition led by an Oklahoma company has produced a guide to help employers across the nation guard against workplace violence.

The coalition led by Paycom, a payroll and human resource technology provider based in Oklahoma City, also led to three new laws passed this year by the Oklahoma Legislature meant to improve workplace safety.

A national expert on public safety and crisis management, Larry Barton, said Oklahoma has emerged as a leading state in efforts to address frightening, widespread violence that, according to the National Safety Council, resulted in 18,400 injuries and 458 fatalities in workplaces across the country in 2017.

Barton contributed to the free guide, which was developed in the wake of social media threats made by a former Paycom employee that led the company to re-evaluate its policies and programs to keep employees safe. A.J. Griffin, a former state senator who now serves as Paycom’s director of government and community affairs, said that despite being forward-thinking and fairly sizable, with more than 2,500 employees, the company quickly realized limitations. Police, too, were hampered, though the former employee who made threats eventually did serve time in jail.

“What we found was that, because of the limitations of law enforcement, employers are kind of on their own to a certain extent,” Griffin said. “And these are incidents that happen around the country regularly.”

Paycom Chief Executive Officer Chad Richison was troubled, too, to think that other employers – especially smaller ones – probably worried that they should do more to guard against workplace violence. So, last July Paycom started assembling the coalition. Griffin said it eventually grew to include dozens of people representing businesses, law enforcement agencies, churches, tribes, academic and mental health communities and others interested in preventing workplace violence. Some shared stories of experiences with violence. All offered input on the guide, which was not copyrighted. To get a free copy, email Griffin at aj.griffin@paycomonline.com.

“We want every employer in the country to use this guide,” Barton said.

The coalition also made recommendations that led to passage of three new laws in Oklahoma. When Gov. Kevin Stitt signed Senate Bill 715, it extended legal protections for employers who petition courts to order people to stay off property. Called the “Protection from Workplace Harassment and Violence Act,” it’s a valuable new tool to help employers protect themselves, their employees and others, Barton said.

“It’s a very big deal in terms of public policy,” he said. “Oklahoma literally is setting the pace for the rest of the country.”

Another bill signed into law, Senate Bill 656, calls for the Council on Law Enforcement Education Training, or CLEET, to include additional training for new police officers to help them deal with people in need of mental health services, including those who might threaten workplace violence.

A third measure signed into law, Senate Bill 752, clarifies social media as an avenue for conveying threats.

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