2018 has unfortunately continued the trend of having violence dominate the news cycle. According to the Gun Violence Archive, for example, there have already been over 300 mass shootings this year alone. Even religious places such as synagogues are at risk for violent incidents. Workplace violence in the U.S. and Canada is no exception.
The biggest problem that companies face when attempting to combat workplace violence is that it comes in all shapes and sizes. Workplace arguments can escalate quickly to something more dangerous than you’re used to. Disgruntled ex-employees can commit horrors you were never ready to face.
In order to help you recognize the shapes and sizes workplace violence can come in, we have put together eight examples of workplace violence that have occurred in the second half of 2018:
1. Mercy Hospital & Medical Center – Chicago, IL (U.S.)
In November, a police officer and two hospital employees were shot and killed after an angry ex-boyfriend confronted a doctor about an allegedly broken engagement. Police were called to the scene as the situation escalated and the ex-boyfriend pulled out a gun. He killed the doctor he confronted and another first-year resident. One police officer who responded to the scene was also shot and killed.
We begin by learning that it’s not always employees and customers that engage in violence. If your business is open to the public, you need to worry about people coming in off the street, too. In this case, it was a scorned ex-boyfriend who knew where his ex-girlfriend worked and decided to confront her directly. Encourage constant vigilance and empower your employees to report whenever they feel somebody may have reason to wish them ill, whether they are a colleague or not.
2. P.Q. Properties, Ltd. – Abercrombie, Nova Scotia (Canada)
A man was shot with a nail gun by a colleague while onsite at a construction job in Abercrombie, Nova Scotia. According to the victim, his attacker threatened him for working too slowly and began to use racially charged language. When he turned to walk away, he was shot with a nail gun, puncturing a lung and requiring emergency surgery.
Any workplace argument has the potential to escalate. Make sure your employees are trained to de-escalate situations whenever possible. Keep your managers ready to nip any potential incidents in the bud. This was not a situation where one colleague wanted to cause irreparable harm to another, but it could have been fatal nonetheless.
3. WTS Paradigm – Middleton, WI (U.S.)
In September, a software engineer walked into his office and began shooting at his colleagues. Three were seriously injured and another was grazed by a bullet. Responding investigators were unable to determine if the victims were chosen purposefully or randomly.
This is a chilling reminder that not all workplace violence incidents are so easy to spot. In this case, the gunman had worked at the company for a year-and-a-half, had no criminal history, and had no apparent motive. Your company must always be ready to respond to an incident, especially when it comes out of nowhere.
4. San Antonio River Authority – San Antonio, TX (U.S.)
A maintenance foreman who worked for the San Antonio River Authority for almost ten years was forced to leave the company after he tossed a large pipe at a colleague from the second story of a building. The victim was struck in the face and required surgery after suffering severe injuries to his nasal cavity.
The foreman was admittedly angry and threw the pipe at a dangerous speed, but claims they intend such a serious injury. This is another great example of how incidents can escalate quickly, even if the attacker doesn’t actually wish to cause serious harm.
5. McDonald’s – Santa Ana, California (U.S.)
An unruly customer was upset that they didn’t receive enough ketchup and walked behind the counter to confront employees. A manager asked the customer to leave the employee-only area and was beaten viciously with kicking, punching, and choking.
Employees that deal directly with the public are always at-risk. You can’t control who walks through the door and what type of mood they’re in. All you can do is train your employees to respond quickly and appropriately.
6. English American Tailoring – Westminster, Maryland (U.S.)
A man was arrested after assaulting two colleagues at their workplace in late July. The most disturbing piece of the puzzle is that the attacker was having problems with those two employees for at least a couple of weeks. He had taken time off to let the situation cool and even spoke with his direct supervisors several times about the harassment he was facing. After being referred to in a racially charged way, he lost his temper and attacked.
Your supervisors and managers absolutely need to take all threats of harassment seriously. In this case, the employee did all he could do to try and nip the issue in the bud. Had the supervisors reacted appropriately, the business could have avoided an ugly incident.
7. Grace Hospital – Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada)
An on-duty nurse working in the emergency room was attacked by a man under the influence of meth on a Friday evening in late September. The details beyond this, including any possible motive, were not released. The extent of the injuries sustained by the nurse was also not released by the hospital or the investigators.
It’s an important reminder that certain occupations, such as nursing, are especially prone to violent incidents due to the people they interact with on a daily basis. In these cases, you need to spend even more time preparing to deal with workplace violence incidents in order to properly protect your employees.
8. Borderline Bar & Grill – Thousand Oaks, CA (U.S.)
This is perhaps the best-known incident that occurred over the past six months. An ex-marine entered a popular bar in Thousand Oaks, California and opened fire after dropping smoke bombs. Bargoers screamed in fear, jumped out of two-story windows, and fled to safety. The gunman attacked with a gun modified to hold a larger magazine for over two minutes before turning his weapon on himself. After all was said and done, a dozen people were murdered.
Tragedies like this are incredibly difficult to predict and handle in the heat of the moment. A bar cannot account for every single patron that enters the bar. You simply need to do the very best you can to realize potential incidents as soon as possible and respond to them as effectively as you can.
- Establish a strong workplace violence prevention & threat management program, consisting of the following at a minimum:
- Clear policy at a corporate level
- A method to report threats of workplace violence
- An individual or team responsible for managing threats
- Establish a method to document all reported threats & acts of workplace violence.
- Put into place a trained, cross-functional team that will assess threats and take action to mitigate the likelihood of escalation to an actual incident. The team’s focus should be on taking actions that protect the organization and your employees and customers.
- Publish regular reporting to stakeholders across the organization of the number of threats and workplace violence incidents.
- Directly connect your threat assessment process to your method of managing a crisis situation so that there is a smooth transition in the event of a major incident.
- Partner with an external consultant, such as Bryghtpath, where needed to help establish, grow, and mature your program.
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