When we hear about incidents of workplace violence, it often seems like something that never could happen in our workplaces.
Until it does.
Statistics from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration show that homicide is the fourth leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that of 4,547 fatal workplace injuries reported in 2010, 506 were workplace homicides.
Further, homicides are the leading cause of death for women in the workplace.
On Sept. 16, a lone gunman fatally shot 12 people and injured three others at the Washington Navy Yard in our nation's capital, spurring more conversation about workplace safety.
Bad people are out there who want to harm good people, so we must admit that we need to be prepared for violence at work, a former Navy SEAL says. Just as workers may practice cardiopulmonary resuscitation or a fire drill, they also should practice how to evade or stop someone bent on hurting others.
Larry Yatch, chief executive of Minneapolis-based Sealed Mindset, provides programs on personal protection, defensive firearms and self-defense programs.
One mistake that people make is believing that if they're kind, moral and trusting, other people will be the same, he says. Unfortunately, bad people have proven that they have none of those qualities.
Another mistake some people make is thinking that they somehow will attract violence if they think about it, he says.
But if companies and their employees don't think about violence and how they will respond to it, they won't be ready to react properly when it happens.
And a lack of training could get them hurt or killed, Yatch says.
A workplace's risk level may rise if it has high turnover, a highly negative culture, disagreements or employees facing domestic violence. If a company were to respond more proactively to such risks — such as posting a security guard near an worker experiencing violence at home — it can reduce risks.
While some may balk at the idea of planning for violence, he points out that fear often paralyzes workers during a shooting or causes them to make bad decisions that can risk their lives.
Once employees are trained on the best ways to react to threats, Yatch says their fear dissipates because they feel more in control.
Employees can learn how to:
• Identify threats. Processes need to be in place that help employees ID potential problems and communicate them to bosses or human resources staffers.
• Fight for their lives. "We tell people to not only lock the door against an intruder but to barricade it with anything they can find, whether it's desks or file cabinets or chairs," he says. Even if an intruder manages (read more here)
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