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The importance of workplace and personal safety programs

police_tapeThis week’s tragic shooting in Roanoke, Virginia evokes many emotions and serves as a reminder of the importance of workplace and personal safety. As people were starting their day, many witnessed the shooting on live television of WDJB-TV reporter Alison Parker, and photographer Adam Ward by a former employee of the station who was fired in 2013. Unfortunately, workplace violence is a much more common occurrence than you may think. The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries’ most recent statistics show that there were 518 workplace homicides in 2010, with shootings accounting for 405 of them. In regards to nonfatal violent crimes in the workplace, the National Crime Victimization Survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, published in 2011, reported a total of 572,000 incidents in 2009 alone. 

Employment-related violence is not associated with any specific type of workplace. The assailant may be a current or former employee, supervisor or manager. This individual may also be a spouse, relative, friend, or acquaintance of an employee. In most cases, the assailant’s actions are motivated by psychological factors, as well as by difficulties in his relationship with the victim. The primary target of employment-related violence is a co-worker, supervisor or manager. In committing the assault, the individual is typically seeking revenge for what is perceived as unfair treatment. Circumstances that may trigger an attack include an unsatisfactory review, unresolved conflicts, unfavorable grievance resolution, demotion, increased productivity demands, disciplinary action, a drawn-out grievance period, loss of pay or benefits, dismissal or reduction in force, or increased performance expectations.

There are various warning signs to look out for if the perpetrator is an active or former employee, as was the case in Virginia. One such sign is aggression towards co-workers or upper management either verbally or via email. If such behavior is observed, report it at once. Another warning sign is going out of his or her way from participating in company outings or meetings, usually in a negative manner. Outbursts are another prominent warning sign. If he or she is unhappy and makes a scene, it probably will not be the last time it occurs.

While a company does not want to alarm employees by planning for a workplace violence situation, it is vital for a company to have some protocol in place if an event in the workplace were ever to arise. Details should include but are not limited to in what situations you should hide and where to do so, as well as evacuation routes and plans. When a surgeon was shot at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital on January 20, 2015, officials praised the quick and appropriate response by staff to protect themselves and patients. However, this was not by accident. A few months prior, the hospital compiled an active shooter employee training video that was recorded at the hospital, and even used staff as actors.

Lastly, being aware of your surroundings and environment are crucial. A coworker that was fired and escorted out of the building may not come back immediately or even in the following days. As seen yesterday, he or she could return years later.  The important part is being aware if that person is still in the area, and taking note if you see them around your office.  If you do see this person at work, report it immediately to upper management and do not confront them.


About the Author

Ann_Mizner_McKay2Ann Mizner McKay is an Area Senior Vice President at Gallagher WGA and leader of the claims team. Ms. McKay has extensive experience and knowledge in various types of risks including technology, healthcare, business service, environmental, energy, life sciences, financial institutions, and other business risks.

617.646.0238 | Ann_MiznerMckay@ajg.com | Connect with Ann on LinkedIn
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