A Close Look At Workplace Violence in Alabama

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UPS ShootingTwo men were fatally shot in the office warehouse of the UPS customer service center in Birmingham, AL. UPS released the following statement:

“UPS sends our condolences to the families of these three individuals. They have asked for privacy during this difficult time. The safety and well-being of our employees is our primary focus. We are providing the families of the victims, along with the employees who work in this facility, with counseling and support. UPS continues to cooperate with authorities in the investigation.”

This most recent shooting in Alabama puts the discussion of Workplace Violence at the forefront once again.  Just how prevalent is workplace violence in Alabama? According to an article published on al.com, Alabama has experienced 9 major workplace shootings in our state since 1999. Here’s a list:

  1. August 5, 1999 –  shooting at two Pelham businesses –  Ferguson Enterprises and Post Airgas
  2. July 27, 2001 –  shooting at TransCycle Industry plant
  3. July 27, 2001 – shooting at Dravo Lime plant in SaginawUPS shooting 2
  4. February 5, 2002 – shooting at the Press-Register in Mobile
  5. February 26, 2003 – shooting at Labor Ready Inc. in Huntsville
  6. December 5, 2006 – shooting at Carlton at the Austal USA shipyard
  7. February 12, 2010 – shooting on campus at UAH in Huntsville
  8. October 8, 2010 – shooting in Centreville at the site of the new Bibb County Schools Board of Education building
  9. September 23, 2014 – shooting at UPS Facility in Birmingham

For more information on these shootings visit the al.com article for details.

Nine shootings in 15 years is considerable, especially since workplace homicides in the U.S. have averaged 603 annually in the 21st century.  This includes a 13 percent increase in incidents occurring from 2006 to 2007 according to the Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, 2000-2007. Here’s something even more alarming – 43 percent of those threatened and 24 percent of those attacked at work do not report the incident. And, it’s costing us money. According to a study by the University of Georgia, incidents of workplace violence cost the United States $70 billion annually, with $64.4 billion attributed to loss in workplace productivity.

The question to ask is how prepared is your organization? According to statistics, 70 percent of workplaces have no formal workplace violence program, despite findings that there are thousands threats of violence every workday.

Before we learn how to prevent such incidents it is important that we have a better understanding of what constitutes workplace violence. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), workplace violence is any physical assault, threatening behavior, or verbal abuse occurring in the work setting that includes, but is not limited to:

  • Psychological
    • Intimidating presence
    • Harassment (being followed, sworn at, or shouted at)
    • Obscene phone calls
    • Threats
  • Physical
    • Beatings
    • Rapes
    • Shootings
    • Stabbings
    • Suicides

Workplace violence may often be the result of continued or ‘perceived’ issues involving employees and/or management. In the case of the UPS Birmingham shooting the cause is still unknown; however, court records show that an auto repair, design and testing shop filed a lawsuit against the suspect and UPS in 2012. The suspect had also been released from employment the day prior.

Often there are tell-tale signs of distress that may be overlooked, but there are concrete steps organizations can take to prevent escalating issues that may result in violence.

There is a workplace violence myth that incidents come out of the blue; the fact is that these incidents do not typically occur spontaneously.

“It is critical that organizations do all they can to identify those employees who need help, and intervene with trained resources that will provide the counseling and case management the individual needs. This raises the likelihood that the gun never comes into the building, the sexual assault never occurs or the bullying is stopped before it becomes a problem. We call this approach the BeRThATM or Behavioral Risk Threat Assessment. Our goal is to enable an organization to intercede before an act of violence occurs.”

Jim Satterfield, President, Firestorm

Having a system to report workplace violence threats, or a way to identify those red-flag triggers such as through a Behavioral Risk Threat Assessment, is one way are examples of approaches a company can intervene implement before a situation culminates into a full violence incident. Most importantly, understanding your risks and having plans and policies in place is the best prevention.

Steps to get You Started:

Step 1) Complete a Workplace Violence Self-Assessment
Step 2)  Foster a supportive, harmonious work environment
Step 3)  Assess Risks
Step 4)  Set up a framework for your Workplace Violence Prevention Program
Step 5)  Develop an effective workplace violence policy to protect employees
Step 6)  Establish procedures for reporting acts of violence
Step 7)  Implement preventive measures that protect employees
Step 8)  Begin training
Step 9)  Establish a personal counseling program through an Employee Assistance Program, or equivalent
Step 10) Begin monitoring based on preventive measures and early warning signs
Step 11) Complete a post Self-Assessment

For more information on how you can better prevent such incidents download Firestorm’s white paper on Workplace Violence and contact us today about how you can receive a no-fee Workplace Violence Self-Assessment.

 

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