It is no secret that violence in the workplace has plagued the United States for more than 100 years. One of the most common forms of violence in the workplace is of the psychological nature. Bullying, intimidation, and verbal threats are the least reported but the most common forms of violence in the workplace. However, according to FBI statistics, 80% of active shooter incidents occur in the workplace as well. Approximately 2 million people a year are affected by some form of violence in the workplace.
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 violence in the workplace 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 violence in the workplace. 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 Workplace Violence?
There are several signs and risk factors for workplace violence. 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 of Violence in the Workplace as a Whole
- Verbal threats to other employees
- Displaying paranoia
- A fascination with violence
- Bizarre behaviors / Mental illness
- Being unreasonable
- Irresponsible actions
- A vindictive nature
- Chronic depression
- Substance / Alcohol Abuse
- Changes in performance
- Unexplained Absenteeism
- Suicidal words, or actions.
- Violation of the work company policy
- Handles criticism poorly
- Personal hygiene is ignored or poor.
- Holds grudges
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, on July 12, 1976, 37-year-old Edward Charles Allaway armed with a .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle killed 7 people and injured two others in the library of California State University. Edward Allaway was the library custodian for California State University and suffered from a history of violence and mental illness.
After the shooting Allaway fled school campus and went to a hotel in Anaheim where he called authorities and confessed to his crime. Allaway was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic after being convicted by a jury. The judge then found Allaway to be insane and sentenced to Patton State Hospital where he received medical treatment. This was documented as the worst mass shooting in Fullerton, California until the Seal Beach shooting in 2011.
Statistics of Violence in the Workplace in 2016
- February 25, 2016 – Cedric Ford, 38, an employee at Excel Industries in Kansas, opened fire inside the factory. Immediately before the workplace shooting, the assailant shot at motorists and stole a car that was driven to the scene. The gunman was killed during a shootout with police.
- May 4, 2016 – Marion Williams, 65, a former employee at Knight Transportation in Katy, Texas, returned to his former employer while firing shots. One person was killed while others sustained injuries from shrapnel. The assailant later committed suicide.
- March 7, 2016 – James Cameau, 34, a recently-hired employee at Jacksonville Granite in Orange Park, Florida, attempted to open fire upon coworkers. His gun jammed several times before he was able to shoot one coworker, who later survived. The assailant then killed himself in a security closet where authorities say he was watching surveillance footage of the situation unfold.
- September 23, 2016 – Ricky Swafford, 45, an employee at Thomas & Betts fabrication factory in Athens, Tennessee, shot and killed his two supervisors before killing himself. Reports say the gunman was in a meeting with his two supervisors when he became enraged and abruptly left the meeting. He returned to the meeting and shot the two supervisors.
- November 15, 2016 – Dean Buie, 45, a former Southwest Airlines employee, shot and killed by another Southwest employee as he was leaving work at the Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City. Buie resigned from his job in 2015 after refusing to submit to an alcohol screening. Buie later committed suicide
- February 20, 2016 – Cedric Larry Ford, 38, began shooting from his vehicle in Newton, Kansas. He shot multiple people on the route to his previous place of employment “Excel Industries.” There he killed three people and wounded 12. The shooter was killed in a gunfire exchange with the police.
- September 23, 2016 – Arcan Cetin, 20, began shooting inside the Macy’s department store in Cascade Mall in Burlington, Washington. The shooter fired shots, laid down his rifle and walked out of the store. None were wounded, five were killed. Law enforcement officers approached the gunman, afterward, he was placed under arrest. Cetin committed suicide several months later while in prison awaiting trial.
- February 29, 2016 – James Austin Hancock, 14, began shooting in the cafeteria of Madison Junior/Senior High School in Middletown, Ohio. He shot two students before making a run. No one was killed in this tragedy, although, four were wounded. The shooter was apprehended near the school by law enforcement officers.
- April 23, 2016 – Jakob Edward Wagner, 18, began shooting at a prom taking place at his former school, Antigo High School in Antigo, Wisconsin. Though no one was killed, two people were injured. The shooter was wounded in an exchange of gunfire with law enforcement officers and died at the hospital later.
- May 24, 2016 – James David Walker, 36, began shooting at motorists along a 13-mile stretch of Beeline Highway (Arizona State route 87). As a few hours go by the shooter continues to aim and shot at random motorists. He then stole a woman’s cell phone at gunpoint and robbed a man’s vehicle at gunpoint. He later ditched the car. Later the police found the man hiding in the desert. No one was killed, two were injured, and law enforcement officers apprehended the shooter.
- May 29, 2016 – Dionisio Augustine Garza|||, 25, began shooting at Memorial Tire and Auto in Houston, Texas. Six people were wounded including two law enforcement officers and an armed civilian that was attempting to stop the shooter. One person was killed. The gunman was then killed in a gunfire exchange with law enforcement officers.
- June 12, 2016 – Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, 29, began shooting patrons inside Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. When law enforcement officers arrived, they began a gunfire exchange with the shooter. This lead to the shooter holding multiple hostages in the bathroom for three hours. There were 49 people killed that night along with 53 that were wounded. The gunman was dead shortly after.
- July 7, 2016 – Lakeem Keon Scott, 37, began shooting while on foot, at a Days Inn in Bristol, Tennessee as well as the motorists on Volunteer Highway. Three people were wounded, including a law enforcement officer. One person was killed. Law enforcement officers injured the shooter.
- September 28, 2016 – Jesse Dewitt Osborne, 14, began shooting at the Townville Elementary School playground in Townville, South Carolina. Before the shooting, the former student Osbourne killed his father at their home. In the shooting at the school, two people were killed, including one student. Three people were wounded. A volunteer firefighter restrained the shooter until law enforcement officers arrived to apprehend the killer.
- October 25, 2016 – Getachew Tereda Fekede, 53, began shooting at his former place of employment, FreightCar America, in Roanoke, Virginia. One person was killed, three people were injured. The shooter committed suicide before the law enforcement officers could arrive.
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 companies 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 of 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.
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