Violence in the workplace is a constant issue that plagues the United States. 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 workplace violence. 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 workplace violence.
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
Ten 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, one of the earliest workplace shootings was on September 14, 1989. A disgruntled worker, Joseph Wesbecker, riddled with rage and mental illness, brought an AK-47 into Standard-Gravure printing plant in Louisville, Kentucky. He then killed eight employees before killing himself.
- January 21, 2017 – An unnamed assailant entered a jewelry store in Henderson, Nevada, brandishing a firearm. The store security guard fired his weapon and missed the assailant, hitting the store employee. The employee later died in the hospital. The suspect is still at large.
- April 10, 2017 – Cedric Anderson, 53, walked into his estranged wife’s special education classroom in San Bernadino, California, and opened fire, killing his estranged wife and one of her students. Another student was injured. Anderson committed suicide before police arrived. Police speculate that the students that were hit were simply innocent bystanders.
- April 25, 2017 – Matthew Kempf, 60, went to his workplace and shot and killed his supervisor. Kempf later committed suicide.
- May 13, 2017 – Thomas Hartless, 43, entered an Ohio nursing home and took two hostages, who were staff members. Hartless later killed the two hostages and a police chief responding to the active shooter call. The gunman later committed suicide. The residents were not among the injured.
- June 5, 2017 – John Robert Neumann Jr., 45, proceeded to shoot five people in his former workplace in Orlando; one survived. Neumann had been fired from his job in April. He committed suicide before police arrived.
- September 24, 2017 – Emanuel Kidega Samson, a 25-year old Sudanese native living in the U.S., opened fire at the Burnett’s Chapel Baptist Church in Antioch, Tennessee. Samson first shot and killed a parishioner on her way to the car. He then entered the building and randomly shot at other people inside. A church usher tried to stop the gunman, but the usher was pistol-whipped in the process. The usher ended up getting his firearm from his car to confront the gunman a second time. Five other people were injured. The Tennessee FBI opened a civil rights investigation into the case.
- October 1, 2017 – Stephen Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nevada, opened fire from his hotel room at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas onto a country music festival below, killing 58 and injuring 546. Paddock later committed suicide. Reports state he first shot incendiary rounds into fuel tanks at the nearby McCarran International Airport, but the tanks did not ignite. There is no known motive at this time. Reports state that the gunman was an active gambler with a “nocturnal” lifestyle with no known significant losses. This shooting re-started debates over gun control, specifically over bump stocks, which make a semi-automatic weapon fire as quickly as an automatic.
- October 25, 2017 – Jaylin Wayne, a freshman at Grambling State University, in Grambling, Louisiana, shot and killed two people on the Grambling State campus during the early morning hours. Earl Andrews, 23, a senior at Grambling State and Monquiarius Caldwell, 23, from Farmerville, Louisiana were killed. Caldwell was not a student at Grambling State.
Witnesses state that the shooting occurred after an argument in one of the dorms spilled out into a courtyard between two dorms.
- November 5, 2017 – Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, of Sutherland Springs, Texas, opened fire on First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs during the Sunday service, killing 26 people. Reports state that the Devin Kelly had been in a dispute with his ex-mother-in-law and had texted threats to her as recently as the morning of the shooting. Reports also indicate that while his ex-mother-in-law wasn’t in the church that morning, his ex-grandmother-in-law was and was among the dead. As the gunman left the church, Stephen Willeford, an armed resident, confronted and shot the gunman. The gunman served in the Air Force from 2010 until 2014, when he had a bad conduct discharge due to assault toward his spouse and child. The conviction should have made him ineligible even to own a firearm, but the Air Force didn’t correctly contact civilian law enforcement of the court-martial. Investigations are ongoing.
- November 14, 2017 – Kevin Neal, 44, of Rancho Tehama Reserve, California, opened fire at Ranch Tehama Elementary School. There were no deaths of students or staff because the school had an incident response plan in place. Reports state that the school staff activated their incident response plan and had been locked down only seconds before the gunman attempted entry at the school. The shooter had a total of eight crime scenes spread over 45 minutes. Kevin Neal was later killed by police after a car chase.
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 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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