Workplace Violence

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A decade ago, I visited Ireland. As a cab driver took me to the airport, I asked him if he had ever visited America. His reply shocked me, “America? Why would I want to go to such a dangerous and violent country?

America is a violent society that grows more violent by the day. Here, I focus on workplace violence that’s on the rise. From the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ January 2013, I learned that workplace homicides were up 50% over last year. Nearly 2,000 employees are targeted and killed while on-the-job in America every year. Shootings, 79% of those who died, were the most frequent manner of death in both homicides and suicides. Of the total incidences where harm was intended in a workplace, in 2011, 4,692 were harmed.

But, that’s not the whole story.
OSHA reports nearly 2,000,000 American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year. 
It says many more cases go unreported.

violence-in-workplace

Here are the Faces of Violence:

  • Bullying and Threats of Harm
  • Assault, Aggravated and Simple
  • Attempted Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • First-Degree Murder

If you are hunkering down into, “Can’t and Won’t Ever Happen Here,” know that the Transportation Industry has the second highest incidences of homicides of all industries, a spitting close second only to, no surprise, Food and Beverage Stores.

Still skeptical?
Workplace violence is currently the second leading cause of fatal occupational injury in America, at 18%.

Consider also that America has the most guns with 88.8 guns per 100 people. Obviously, many Americans have more than one gun. How many people do you know who have dozens of guns? I know two.

What country is second? Yemen.
Third? Switzerland, but there’s a reason.
The Swiss Government demands its citizens to be armed, because it has no armed forces of its own.

Are most of your employees men? Most workplace violence is committed by men who know what they are doing and why they are doing it. Often, men will commit suicide after they kill.

Violence doesn’t just happen in bars, brothels, or banks. The term “going Postal” got coined from violence happening in an unexpected place.
No workplace is immune.

Avoid thinking that most workplace violence happens because an individual has “snapped,” going violent spontaneously without provocation. Commonly, violence heats up from logs of anger building a red-hot fire over time. That’s one reason many violent offenders show no regret or remorse and easily justify their payback revenge, provided they don’t commit suicide afterward or within 48 hours. Most workplace violence stems from a strong belief in being wronged.

Dare You Ask Yourself These Two Questions?:

  1. If an armed person, employee or non-employee tried to enter your workplace, what are the chances he or she could get in?
  2. What are the chances he or she having gotten in, could successfully wound or kill in your workplace?

Hundreds of employers every year are faced with workplace violence who have never had to deal with it before.

  • What do you have in place to prevent murder and mayhem on your premises or to your employees on the road?
  • What instructions do your employees have before law enforcement arrives during an incident of workplace violence, called the “flash point?”
  • What instructions do your employees have immediately following a violent incident on your premises, or on the road, to prevent further injury and care for victims?

Private life problems of both men and women can and do contribute to eruptions of violence in the workplace.
Relationship problems are the number one cause of workplace violence. 
Consider well-liked supervisors, bosses and owners aren’t targets. 

Consider this other aspect, while the target could be your employee, someone who does not work for you could enter your workplace to do an employee harm.

The awarer you keep yourself of the causes of workplace violence, the better you will handle yourself before, during and after an incident.
Again and again, the employee who commits violence in the workplace feels unjustly treated and the majority of the time their belief has teeth. 

Nearly all workplace killers were neither liked nor respected by their bosses or coworkers. Most often, the teased, taunted, bullied and abused inflict murderous revenge in the workplace.

Some Causes of Violent Revenge from the Perpetrator’s Viewpoint:

  • Critical, Demanding, Hard-Driving Bosses
  • Favoritism
  • Firings and Layoffs
  • Passed Over for Promotion
  • Work Relationship Troubles
  • Fear of Job Loss
  • Envy and Jealousy
  • Bullying
  • Sexual Harassment

Here are some Homicide Red Flags:

  • Former Employees Who Still Have Possession of Keys, Passwords, Codes, and Employee Identification Cards
  • Keeping Employees Who Make Violent Threats
  • Keeping Employees with Alcohol or Substance Abuse Problems
  • Ignoring Disruptive Behavior Warning Signs
  • Ignoring Serious Personal, Financial and Medical Problems
  • Ignoring Off-the-Job Bizarre or Illegal Behavior

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has guidelines requiring employers to provide a safe work environment for its employees and these guidelines are best met with a clear, communicated well-written and implemented Zero Tolerance Violence Policy:

  • Gun-Free Work Environment
  • Quick, Clean Termination Policy that includes inventory of employee belongings and return of all company property with notice that the employee has no right to enter company property in the future
  • If you sense something, say something, because awareness plus action can equal the key to workplace violence prevention.

Ideas for After Violence Action:

  • Trauma Treatment for Eyewitnesses and Others
  • Counseling for Employees
  • Grief Counseling
  • Violence Prevention Education
  • Deal with Customer and Public Concerns

The main claim in lawsuits is the company could have done more to secure its premises to protect its employees and others harmed on its premises. Thirty-six states in the United States allow lawsuits against employers for Negligent Hiring. If an American company, is your state in the 36?

Wondering about the cost? After violence direct costs can include hikes in insurance premiums, lawyer fees if lawsuits are brought, and repairing damage to physical property. You must also address your company customer and public image, employee morale and productivity.

The estimate from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, is that American workplace violence costs approximately $36 billion per year.
How do you get your arms around that as a single employer?

A workplace homicide can cost an employer in excess of $800,000 in legal fees and settlements.

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