Earlier this year 38-year-old Cedric Larry Ford killed four and wounded 14 others in a chaotic workplace shooting spree in Kansas. Investigators at the time were unclear of the shooter’s motive—only that there were “some things that triggered this particular individual.” While it’s easy to push aside news of these incidents with the justification, “It can’t/won’t happen here,” the fact is that workplace violence can and does happen to unsuspecting organizations—and often for no immediately discernable reason.
With this blog, we’re debuting a comprehensive, four-part series aimed at shining the light on this frightening—and increasingly common—issue. This inaugural entry takes a closer look at the risks of workplace violence, along with the consequences of failure to plan and prepare for threatening incidents.
A Look at the Numbers
There were 14,700 workplace homicide victims in the decade between 1992 and 2012, according to statistics from the federal government. That’s an average of 700 a year.
But while workplace violence fatalities receive the majority of media attention, the truth is that nonfatal crimes are exponentially more common. According to the most recent report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics on violence in the workplace, reports of nonviolent crimes against adults in the workplace well exceed 500,000 every year. Experts propose that this number is significantly higher when you factor in relatively minor violent acts which go unreported.
In total, approximately two million U.S. workers are impacted every year by some form of violence in the workplace.
Why Planning Matters
If you think your organization is in the clear because you don’t have “disgruntled employees,” you may want to think again. Contrary to misconception, angry ex-workers are not the most frequent perpetrators of workplace violence. In fact, in two-third of workplace homicides, there is no known personal link between the assailant and the victim. Factor in that domestic acts of terrorism are often focused on the workplace, and the threat of “random” workplace violence grows.
But just because you can’t anticipate an imminent act of workplace violence doesn’t mean you can’t plan and prepare for it. In fact, you may be under legal requirement. The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) mandates that U.S. companies must assess their workplaces to ensure that they’re free of hazards, including violent attacks. Employers also have a government-mandated “duty of care” obligation to their employees. A workplace violence assessment and action plan serves as an invaluable defense against liabilities.
When you consider that estimates place the total cost to Virginia Tech following the 2007 campus massacre at approximately $38 million due to everything from legal bills to building renovations, the imperative of preparedness becomes even clearer. In fact, as many as 40 percent of businesses impacted by disaster—either natural or human-caused—never reopen their doors, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
Certainly, these figures and statistics issue forth a loud call to today’s organizations. With workplace violence on the rise, inevitable, and unpredictable, taking steps to plan and prepare is a vital part of any organization’s strategies. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series which will cover the basics of assembling a crisis management team.