Workplace Violence is a topic that plagues America. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there was a total of 4,693 work fatalities reported in 2011. Of this number, Workplace Violence accounted for 17 percent of all fatal work injuries occurring in 2011, at 791 fatalities. The report further states that of the 385 fatal injuries to female workers, 164 (or 43 percent) were due to violence. Consequently, of the 4,308 fatalities to male workers, 1,773 (or 42 percent) were due to 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 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 November 1, 1991. Gang Lu, a doctoral graduate of the University of Iowa, opened fire on a department meeting before turning the gun on himself. The assailant had been recently denied a monetary prize for his dissertation and had previously filed several appeals and grievances. Three of the victims had been on the dissertation committee.
October 5, 2011
Shareef Allman, 47, an employee at the Lehigh Southwest Cement Plant in Santa Clara County, California, opened fire at a 4:00 am safety meeting. He later attempted to carjack a woman five miles away at gunpoint but was unsuccessful. Some reports say that the assailant thought his coworkers were after him and that the meeting was for disciplinary action against him.
September 6, 2011
Eduardo Sencion, 32, opened fire at an IHOP in Carson City, Nevada. He was initially thought to have targeted the National Guard in his assault because three out of five of his victims were uniformed National Guard. Reports state that he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia but had no traces of antipsychotic drugs in his system at the time of the assault.
October 12, 2011
Scott Dekraai, 42, opened fire at the Salon Meritage hair salon in Seal Beach, California. The assailant was involved in a custody dispute with his ex-wife, one of the victims who worked at the salon. Some reports state that the assailant had a restraining order issued against him that had expired prior to the shooting. Other reports state that he had been diagnosed with PTSD prior to the assault.
December 16, 2011
Andre Turner, 48, of Irwindale, California, an employee of Southern California Edison, an electric company, opened fire upon his supervisors. The assailant specifically sought out his victims because witnesses say that he specifically passed people by during the assault. Co-workers stated that he had been counseled earlier in the week about missing an important deadline.
January 8, 2011
Jared Loughner, of Tuscon, Arizona, shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords point-blank at a Safeway grocery store, then others at random. Giffords had been participating in a constituent meeting in the grocery store parking lot prior to the shooting.
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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