Workplace violence is a topic that plagues America. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there was a total of 5,920 work fatalities reported in 2000. Of this number, workplace violence accounted for 16 percent of all fatal work injuries occurring in 2000, at 930 fatalities. The report further states that of the 930 fatalities due to workplace violence, 73 percent were homicides, at 677 fatalities.
Workplace violence 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 workplace violence are mental illness, drug abuse, divorce, or perceived personal failure.
Close to half of all workplace violence 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 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 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 Workplace Violence
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 example of workplace violence took place on August 1, 1993. Kenneth French, 22, of Fayetteville, North Carolina, opened fire in Luigi’s Restaurant in Fayetteville. Reports state the assailant had a troubled childhood that continued to plague him during his adult years.
- March 10, 2000 – Darrell Ingram, 19, of Savannah, Georgia, opened fire at a school dance just as it was letting out. Reports state that there was a dispute outside the gym, where the dance was held, immediately prior to the assault.
- May 24, 2000 – John Taylor, 36, of Flushing, Queens, New York, shot and killed six employees at Wendy’s restaurant in Flushing, New York. The gunman was a former employee at Wendy’s location and forced the manager to summon all employees to the office where he committed the assault.
- May 26, 2000 – Nathaniel Brazill, 13, of Lake Worth, Florida, shot and killed a teacher on the last day of classes in Lake Worth Middle School in Lake Worth. The assailant had been sent home earlier in the day for throwing water balloons but returned later on with a firearm. He asked to speak to a student in the teacher’s class, and when refused, the assailant opened fire.
- June 21, 2000 – Stuart Alexander, 39, of San Leandro, California, shot and killed three USDA inspectors (and attempted to injure a fourth) inspecting the Santos Linguisa Sausage Factory in San Leandro. The assailant owned the factory and believed he was being harassed by the inspectors, saying the guidelines set upon the factory resulted in an inferior product. The inspectors had pre-emptively called police for an escort, but it was treated as a low-priority call and no officer was dispatched.
- September 26, 2000 – Two unnamed students at Carter G. Woodson Middle School in New Orleans, ages 13 and 15, were wounded with the same gun in a fight. The younger student shot the older student, who then grabbed the gun and shot the younger student. Students at the school had to enter through a metal detector. The younger student had acquired the firearm through a chain link fence from a student who had recently been expelled.
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 during 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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