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Workplace Violence Latest Security Threat

Not so far back in U.S. history, the term “going postal” referred to anyone who flew into a rage, because for a while, it seemed as if every time we opened a newspaper or turned on a television or radio news broadcast, we were greeted by story about a postal worker losing control and shooting co-workers or strangers who had the misfortune to cross his path. Unfortunately, workplace violence is once again on the rise. Fortunately, business leaders can do something to curb or even all but eliminate violence in their own workplaces.

Usually, when we think of workplace violence, we think of extreme cases like those with the postal workers or the one where a man in Star, NC went to work, shot and killed three of his co-workers, wounded a fourth, then went home and shot himself, or the more recent incident in which a gunman killed two and wounded seven others at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh, Penn.  Remember, workplace violence doesn’t have to come at the hands of a disgruntled employee.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workplace violence is “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide.” OSHA reports that the fourth leading cause of fatal workplace injuries is homicide and estimates nearly two million people in the U.S. fall victim to workplace violence every year.

To help business leaders to better understand what constitutes workplace violence and how they can protect themselves and their employees, colleagues or clients, the U.S. Department of Labor created an OSHA factsheet that includes more statistics and where people can go to get even more information about how to prevent violence in their workplaces. Any business that handles cash, particularly banks and retail stores, is at increased risk of workplace violence. That doesn’t mean that people who work in places that don’t handle cash have nothing to worry about.

Business leaders can make their workplaces safe by, first and foremost, making them respectful. Most people don’t have the patience of Job, and a steady diet of disrespect and disregard could push a person to do the unthinkable, leaving an unsuspecting executive dead, injured or sadly explaining to his employees’ loved ones how something so horrible could happen. That’s one disaster that precious few executives prepare for because the extreme cases are still so rare that people allow themselves to believe “That could never happen at my company.” Yes, it can.

Business leaders take the time to create disaster recovery plans to cope with the aftermath of natural disasters or power outages but neglect to plan for the kind of devastation that workplace violence causes. It’s unpleasant to think about someone coming into their places of business wielding a gun, but when it comes to workplace violence, putting off addressing the issue until after the unthinkable has happened simply won’t do.

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