Violence in the workplace is an issue that plagues the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,836 fatal workplace injuries were reported in 2015. Of that number, 417 were workplace homicides. According to the same report, 43 percent of female victims were fatally assaulted by a relative or domestic partner. The corresponding number for males was only 2 percent.
Violence in the workplace is not always about work related issues. Most people assume that disgruntled workers are usually the culprit. However, that is not necessarily the case. As reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in two-thirds of workplace homicides, the attacker has no known personal relationship with the victims. Furthermore, most assailants who are employees commit workplace violence due to something else going on in their lives. Some of the more typical reasons for violence in the workplace are mental illness, drug abuse, divorce, or perceived personal failure.
Close to half of all violence in the workplace happens in a public environment. It is virtually impossible to work on solving the issue of violence in the workplace when most companies do not see it as a problem. The estimated cost of a workplace homicide to the employer is a whopping $800,000.00. It is safe to say that it would be less expensive to take action against workplace violence. Moreover, did you know that 27% of businesses have experienced at least one violent workplace incident within the last five years?
What are Some of the Indicators and Risk Factors for Violence in the Workplace?
There are several signs and risk factors for violence in the workplace. Researchers have configured and identified a list of factors that may increase the possibility of violence in the workplace. However, the good news is if employers pay attention to the warning signs and risk factors, they can address the problem issues beforehand.
Risk Factors for Violence in the Workplace from an Outside Assailant
- Working alone or in an isolated area
- Where alcohol is served
- Working late at night
- Working in high crime rate areas
- An environment where money is exchanged with the public
Indicators for Violence in the Workplace as a Whole
- Verbal threats to other employees
- Displaying paranoia
- A fascination with violence
- Bizarre behaviors
- Being unreasonable
- Irresponsible actions
- A vindictive nature
- Chronic depression
- Substance / Alcohol Abuse
- Changes in performance
Five Surprising Acts of Violence in the Workplace
The threat of violence in the workplace is real. Moreover, these statistics validate the reality that violence in the workplace is often a deadly incident that can happen to any business.
For example, an early workplace shooting was on May 15, 1969. Robert Kenneth Smith, a guard in a Chrysler plant in Twinsburg, Ohio, opened fire for nearly an hour before turning the gun on himself. Two of his coworkers were killed.
February 12, 2015
– Jeffrey DeZeeuw, 51, a contractor at a Sioux Steel location called ProTec, shot two co-workers. Witnesses say that the coworkers had been arguing when the assailant left the mill. The assailant returned a few hours later and shot his co-workers.
February 23, 2015
– Edgar Figueroa, 42, an employee of Shields Business Solutions in Moorestown, New Jersey, shot a co-worker after an argument shortly after arriving at work. The victim was expected to survive.
April 4, 2015
– Christopher McAteer, 18, a former employee at Ninki’s Japanese Restaurant in Owensboro, Kentucky, drove by his former employer and fired shots. The gunman was fired on the spot earlier in the evening after making threats.
August 26, 2015
– A former employee, Vester Lee Flanagan, of TV Station WDBJ in Roanoke, Virginia, shot and killed Allison Parker and Adam Ward during a live interview.
December 2, 2015
– Syed Farook, 28, an employee with the San Bernadino County Department of Public Health, and his wife Tashfeen Malik, 29, a US born citizen and permanent resident respectively, opened fire on a health department holiday party. President Obama later declared the shooting an act of terrorism.
Active Shooter Situations in the Workplace
Proper planning and training can reduce injuries related to an active shooter incident. Controlling the impact of an active shooter involves many layers of security. Those layers can consist of an incident response plan, a panic button system, security staff and surveillance cameras.
The first step is to know what to do in those critical moments. The first minute of an active shooter incident is the most important moment of your company’s emergency response. Training and being mentally prepared to take action in a crisis can make a big difference. Furthermore, just knowing where all of the building exits and locking doors are located can help boost a person’s survival.
Moreover, there is no foolproof way to avert an active shooter incident. However, with the speed and accuracy of information given in the initiated alert can contribute to impact a positive result. Additionally, there is new technology available that enables mass notification to those who need to know about the crisis to increase the probability of a successful emergency response.
In conclusion, I encourage you and your staff to become familiar with the violence prevention and incident response plans for your facility. An essential part of violence prevention is to utilize those policy resources when you feel it is necessary. Report unusual or suspicious behavior to administrators immediately. Moreover, trust that “uh-oh” feeling when things just don’t seem legit. Practice incident response plans at least quarterly so that the training remains fresh. If employees have clear policies and procedures to follow during a crisis, they can protect themselves more efficiently. Hundreds people’s lives are lost every year to violence in the workplace. Arm your employees with the tools and knowledge they need to make an appropriate decision.