Only transportation incidents resulted in more deaths. The recent workplace shootings in Jefferson City on July 1 is another example of the escalation of workplace violence.
"High-profile workplace violence incidents like the recent one in Jefferson City sensitize us to the destruction violence in the workplace can impose," says Bob Gibson, vice president of Loss Prevention and Administration for Missouri Employers Mutual Insurance (MEM). "These are needless, senseless deaths that can and should be prevented."
Nationally, workplace violence is a problem, too. In 2000, 898 employees were killed as the result of a homicide or suicide in the workplace. That number was up slightly from 1999's total of 870.
Some types of industries are more likely to have high-risk occupations, Gibson says, including those where employees work alone or late at night, exchange money, work in high-crime areas or guard valuables. Companies that have recently downsized, reorganized or that have highly repetitive tasks or high-production volumes should also be alerted to the possibility of violence.
To guard against violence, Gibson suggests employers:
- Watch for signs in employee behaviors that could indicate a propensity for violence, including impaired judgment, emotional difficulties, financial problems, legal problems, strained family relationships, threats and stress.
- Instruct employees not to enter any location where they feel unsafe.
- Establish a communication system, such as a cell phone, for field employees.
- Encourage employees to report any violence or threats of violence.
- Report all violent incidents to the local police.
Employees can be proactive, too, Gibson says. They should:
- Be aware of workplace violence risk factors.
- Report all violent incidents to supervisors, even if there are no injuries.
- Attend safety education and training programs.
- Follow established safety and security procedures.
"While it seems nearly anyone can commit workplace violence," Gibson says, "by knowing the warning signs, you can potentially stop someone's violent behavior before it turns deadly."