Workplace violence is a topic that plagues America. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there was a total of 5,734 work fatalities reported in 2005. Of this number, workplace violence accounted for 14 percent of all fatal work injuries occurring in 2005, at 792 deaths. The report further states that of the 406 fatal injuries to female workers, 28 percent were due to violence at 113 fatalities. Consequently, of the 5,328 deaths to male workers, 13 percent were due to violence, at 679 deaths.
Work-related issues are not always the cause of workplace violence. 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 Workplace Violence 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 Workplace Violence 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 workplace violence 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 October 1, 1982. Douglas Mozingo, 29, of Sacramento, California, opened fire on occupants at the Mother Lode bar in Sacramento. Three people were killed and nine were injured.
- February 24, 2005 – David Hernandez Arroyo, Sr., 43, of Tyler, Texas, engaged law enforcement in gunfire on the steps of the local courthouse after shooting his ex-wife and son. The gunman and his ex-wife were going to attend a court hearing about unpaid child support.
- March 12, 2005 – Terry Ratzmann, 44, of Brookfield, Wisconsin, opened fire on a Living Church of God service taking place in a Brookfield Sheraton Hotel. Several witnesses said that the assailant was the last person they thought would commit such an act.
- March 21, 2005 – Jeffrey Weise, 16, a student at Red Lake Senior High School, in Red Lake, Minnesota, opened fire in an English classroom at the school. Immediately before the assault, the gunman killed his grandfather (a police officer) and companion, and took two police-issued weapons. According to several reports, the assailant had been previously bullied in school.
- August 9, 2005 – Jennifer Hyatte, 31, of Kingston, Tennessee, shot and killed a Tennessee Department of Correction transport officer in the Roane County Courthouse in Kingston, Tennessee. The assailant’s husband had plead guilty to robbery in the courtroom immediately before the assault.
- November 20, 2005 – Dominick Maldonaldo, 20, of Tacoma, Washington, opened fire in the Tacoma Mall before taking hostages inside a store. Reports state that he had an extensive juvenile record and had an order against him not to own weapons.
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 critical moment of your company’s emergency response. Training and mental preparedness can make a huge difference in the long run. Survival increases simply by knowing where the building entrances and exits are.
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 favorable 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. Workplace violence claims hundreds of lives every year. Arm your employees with the tools and knowledge they need to make an appropriate decision.
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