Workplace violence is a topic that plagues America. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there was a total of 5,840 work fatalities reported in 2006. Of this number, workplace violence accounted for 13 percent of all fatal work injuries occurring in 2006, at 788 deaths. The report further states that of the 444 fatal injuries to female workers, 29 percent were due to violence at 132 fatalities. Consequently, of the 5,396 deaths to male workers, 12 percent were due to violence, at 656 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 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 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 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 March 2, 1978. Leslie Torrey, a factory worker at the Pittsburgh Forgings Company in Jackson, Michigan, opened fire into a crowded break room, injuring 17 co-workers.
- January 30, 2006 – Jennifer San Marco, 44, of Grants, New Mexico, opened fire at a mail processing plant in Goleta, California. The assailant had previously worked at the plant, but had been placed on retirement disability in 2003 due to mental health issues. She gained access to the plant by driving behind other employees and taking a name badge at gunpoint. The assailant also shot and killed a neighbor about an hour prior to the assault.
- March 3, 2006 – Mohammed Taheri-azar, 22, a graduate of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, hit people on campus at UNC with his vehicle with the intent of “avenging the deaths of Muslims worldwide.” The assailant was born in Iran, but moved to the US at the age of two and later became a naturalized citizen.
- March 14, 2006 – James Newman, 14, student at Pine Middle School, in Reno, Nevada, opened fire in the hallway of his school. The school had a delayed start because of inclement weather that morning, so not all students were in attendance. The assault was stopped by a teacher.
- July 28, 2006 – Naveed Haq, 30, of Pasco, Washington, opened fire in the Seattle Jewish Federation building. The assailant identified himself as a Muslim American and expressed being unhappy with the war in Iraq and the US support of Israel. Authorities later called the assault a hate crime, rather than an act of terror, because of statements the assailant made to a 911 operator during the attack.
- October 2, 2006 – Charles Roberts, 32, took hostages in the West Nickel Mines Amish School and opened fire when becoming agitated. The assailant’s behavior supposedly became more jovial in the weeks before the assault.
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.
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