Shooting Reshatters Myth of Workplace Safety

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Byline: Mike Comerford Daily Herald Business Writer

Mark O. Barton didn't just shatter the lives of the nine people he killed and the 12 people he wounded Thursday, he once again shattered the myth of safety in the workplace.

The day trader walked into two brokerage firms in Atlanta Thursday and opened fire. And those of us who set our eyes upon the images of the horrified and frightened people running from their workplace cannot help but wonder how safe we are in our own places of employment.

Barton, who also killed his wife and two children, later killed himself. His actions were portrayed as isolated, but in the wake of the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., and other such incidents of random violence, it raises questions as to how to prevent and prepare for such acts.

"There are lots of incidents out there that did not happen because they were managed right in the first place," said Stephen Morrow, head of the Critical Incident Response Team for this area's largest bank, Bank One. "There are clear warning signs if you know how to read them."

Businesses that deal with the public, such as the online trading brokerages attacked in Atlanta, are particularly vulnerable. So much so that Hoffman Estates-based Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Oak Brook-based McDonald's Corp. declined to disclose their employee security measures. McDonald's restaurants have been the scene of several violent encounters.

"Going postal," referring to U.S. Postal workers opening fire on co-workers, is now sadly part of the American lexicon. The problem became so prevalent by the mid-1990s that the postal system organized a national symposium and then drafted a laundry list of safety guidelines.

Identification badges, a hotline, video training sessions and workplace counseling have been part of the postal service's solution.

"We have a zero-tolerance policy for guns on the workplace grounds, even if it is a hunting rifle in the truck," said Paul Griffo, a spokesman for the postal service in Washington, D.C. "We also have a zero-tolerance policy for jokes like 'Someday I'm coming in with a gun.' "

Unfortunately, once under way, preventing an armed person bent on destruction at a workplace is extremely.

The key is preventing the situation from getting that far.

"Workplace violence is the No. …