The shooting at Fort Hood, Texas and a subsequent shooting in an office building in Orlando, Florida are a grim reminder that workplace violence is a very real threat.
I’ve worked on military bases nearly all my life. I’ve stood security watches as a young sailor and I’ve been responsible for developing force protection and prevention of workplace violence plans as the administrative officer of a Defense Department command in Philadelphia. Military bases are generally the safest workplaces in the country.
Over my many years of service I had to contend with several cases of workplace violence, but thankfully none of them were as horrific as the shooting deaths of 12 soldiers and one Army civilian employee and the wounding of 38 others at Fort Hood. The attack at Fort Hood was the deadliest at a U.S. military base in history.
We should wait for the official after-action report and the criminal trial before we make a judgment, but it appears from initial reports that the suspect, Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, gave off plenty of warning signs that he was a serious threat to others.
Only a day after the Fort Hood shooting, a man walked into the eighth floor offices of his previous employer and shot one person to death and wounded five others.
The man had been fired by the engineering firm two years prior to his deadly return to the office. Not all of the facts of this case have been released by the police, but I’m curious to learn what kind of security measures, if any, the company had.
The FBI put out a study on workplace violence in 2004 called Workplace Violence: Issues in Response.
The FBI study listed four types of workplace violence:
TYPE 1: Violent acts by criminals who have no other connection with the workplace, but to enter to commit robbery or another crime.
TYPE 2: Violence directed at employees by customers, clients, patients, students, inmates, or any others for whom an organization provides services.
TYPE 3: Violence against coworkers, supervisors, or managers by a present or former employee.
TYPE 4: Violence committed in the workplace by someone who doesn’t work there, but has a personal relationship with an employee – an abusive spouse or domestic partner.
The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that workplace violence is violence or the threat of violence against workers. It can occur at or outside the workplace and can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide, one of the leading causes of job-related deaths. OSHA says that workplace violence is a growing concern for employers and employees nationwide.
OSHA states that more than two million American workers are victims of workplace violence each year. Workplace violence can strike all businesses.
OSHA offers some good tips on what employers and employees can do to prevent workplace violence, as well as information on how one should respond to an incident of workplace violence. You can access the OSHA Fact Sheet on Workplace Violence here [PDF].
No physical security measure or preventative strategy can stop all workplace violence, but a good security plan, along with employee training, can prevent most cases of workplace violence.
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