Note: This article covers workplace violence incidents from 2019. For a more up-to-date free briefing on significant workplace violence incidents for the past few years, see our free report on Notable Workplace Violence Incidents, updated annually.
As we work together to fight against workplace violence, the biggest challenge is that no two incidents are exactly the same. They can range from disgruntled employees to robbery attempts to somebody just deciding that they’ve had enough. Since these incidents are nearly impossible to predict, it’s important to develop strong workplace violence training and policies so your employees know how to spot early warning signs and react appropriately when a situation arises.
In order to illustrate some of the threats that workplace violence poses and help you understand how it can occur, here are eight workplace violence incidents that have occurred in the past six months:
1. UPS Warehouse – San Francisco, California
One of the most prolific workplace violence incidents this year occurred at a San Francisco UPS warehouse facility in June. Just before 9:00 a.m. local time, a driver in full uniform opened fire on his co-workers, killing three and injuring five. When police arrived on the scene, he turned the gun and shot himself. Although no definitive motive has been agreed upon, the gentleman apparently felt disrespected by his fellow employees, which could have led to the violent outburst. Employees who were interviewed later stated how surprised they were, that the man never displayed any prior violent tendencies.
It’s important to remember that strong workplace violence policies are important for every single company. Even if you don’t believe anything like this could happen at your office, or your warehouse, there might not be any warning signs or they could be hard to miss. Proper policies and procedures allow you to minimize the impact of incidents that nobody sees coming.
Another violent incident occurred earlier this year in Orlando when a former employee returned to his old factory and opened fire, killing four males and one female. He also shot himself before law enforcement was able to subdue him. This particular employee had a history of violence, having gotten into a physical altercation with another employee in 2014. In this case, the shooting was premeditated, as he planned on singling out and killing specific people. At least one of those was somebody he reportedly had a bad relationship with, although it was not the gentleman he had previously gotten into an altercation with.
While there might not have been any signs that violence of this nature was to occur, it’s a good reminder that workplace violence must be dealt with completely. Terminating employees who get into physical altercations is a good idea, and you should consider alerting authorities or improving security immediately after the termination. If a non-fireable incident occurs, ensure that all necessary parties receive the help they need, both professionally and for their own well-being.
3. Dotcom Computers – Raynham, Massachusetts
This September, an employee in Raynham, MA was arrested for attempted murder after stabbing his supervisor in the neck following an apparent argument. Medical personnel arrived on the scene quickly and the supervisor was able to survive without any permanent complications.
The employees at Dotcom Computers were commended by Raynham’s Chief of Police for their efforts in detaining the attacker and alerting authorities immediately. He said, “Despite the dangerous situation, they intervened immediately to prevent further harm to the victim.”. This is an excellent lesson – proper workplace violence training can literally be the difference between life and death.
4. Iowa Medical Classification Center – Des Moines, Iowa
On the day after Thanksgiving, a nurse was attacked by a patient. The patient walked into her office and struck her repeatedly with a closed fist. Her fellow staff and correctional offices overheard the commotion and quickly rushed to her aid. She was treated and released without sustaining any major injuries.
When it comes to workplace violence, nurses are especially vulnerable. They are extremely accessible, often working alone with patients, who might be experiencing physical or emotional trauma and taking a variety of medications. For medical facilities, workplace violence strategies are absolutely vital to the safety of their employees.
5. Mercy Hospital – Minneapolis, Minnesota
Another violent incident occurred involving a nurse this October in Minneapolis. A female patient carved a message for her nurse into the hospital wall, hid behind a door and punched him when he entered the room before attempting to escape. He was struck near his glasses, but sustained only two very minor cuts on his face.
This is another example of how important it is to protect medical professionals (and all employees), whether male or female. In this case, a female patient attacked a male nurse, and could have caused great harm if she continued the assault instead of fleeing.
6. Fox Pizza & Subs – Greensboro, North Carolina
Earlier this month, an angry customer attacked a pizzeria employee in Greensboro because he believed the pizza that was delivered to his house was too cold.The gentleman entered the establishment angrily and even forced his way into the kitchen before being calmed down and offered a free pizza. However, as he waited outside he decided to enter the restaurant again, and after arguing with the manager. After the cashier attempted to intervene, he knocked her down and drug her across the floor, striking her several times.
It’s not just nurses, of course. Any employees who deal with the public on a daily basis are at risk of dealing with violent situations. In this case, a cold pizza was all it took for a customer to assault an innocent cashier. In this case, proper training could have led the staff to alert the authorities when the man first became hostile, ensuring it didn’t escalate any further. Additionally, training may have allowed the employees to successfully diffuse the situation or prohibited the vulnerable cashier from inserting herself into an already tense incident.
7. Pittsburgh King Elementary School – Pittsburgh, Pennslyvania
In October, a fourth-grade teacher was attacked by a parent after confiscating her daughter’s cell phone according to school policy. The student bit her teacher as she was confiscating the phone, causing the teacher to call her mother and request a conference. At the meeting later that day, the student alleged she had been choked by her teacher, and her mother vowed that the teacher would “get it later”. Along with her boyfriend, she followed the teacher as she sought medical treatment for the bite and threw a brick at her, knocking a tooth out and causing facial injuries.
As horrifying as this incident is, it’s a perfect reminder of how critical it is that employees report any threats of violence, no matter who it’s from. After her student’s mother threatened she would get it later, an appropriate report might have provided safety from the threat, either with the authority’s intervention or simply a quick escort home.
8. Inca Chicken
Our final example of workplace violence in 2017 occurred in Brooklyn this September at a local chicken take-out joint. A robber arrived at the restaurant at about 9:15 a.m. and crept behind the counter while an employee was in the bathroom. When the 78-year-old cashier emerged, they attempted to subdue the robber and was violently thrown to the ground. Luckily, he sustained no major injuries.
Can we help you?
Bryghtpath has developed the workplace violence programs, threat management teams, and crisis plans for many Fortune 500 organizations. Our firm has more than a century of experience in developing actionable plans to help prepare organizations for the unexpected. Our expertise includes crisis communications and emergency procedures, and we’d love to help empower your management to handle challenging workplace violence situations safely.
Contact us today at +1.612.235.6435 or reach out via our contact form.