This week I did something I seldom do before writing my blog post: I reread last week’s post. As I prepare to head to the American Society of Safety Professional’s Bay Area Technical Symposium my head should be on my topic (You’re Only As Safe As Your Weakest Contractor) but I just can’t get workplace violence out of my head.
Last month I wrote a bit about the two most recent workplace violence incidents and got a lot of feedback from people about how much bad information there is out there and how many fly-by-night experts in workplace violence have suddenly appeared on the scene
As I said, last week, I didn’t want to write the book Lone Gunman: Rewriting The Handbook On Workplace Violence and I certainly didn’t want to plug it on my blog (this isn’t me being altruistic I want to sell books as much as any author, but owing to a SNAFU Lone Gunman didn’t go through my publisher’s quality control process and the result is a book that is so full of typos it could be an activity book. I am acting quickly to correct the errors so if you are thinking of purchasing it (and why the heck wouldn’t you be?) my advice is to wait another couple of weeks for a corrected copy. In the mean-time, there are a lot of so-called experts spreading some really and truly dangerous advice about “how to survive workplace violence”.
The biggest problem is that many of these experts are seemingly lumping workplace violence events together with mass shootings into a broad category and therefore giving advice which is an excellent response to a mass shooting but a dangerously stupid response to a workplace attack.
Let me begin by establishing my standing to speak on the subject. I honestly would be reading this and be asking myself, “what makes this crackpot an expert on workplace violence prevention?” and that’s a fair question, in fact, it is a question we should be asking about any author or speaker on any subject (in addition to what is this guy’s agenda?) Before being dragged kicking and screaming into the world of worker safety I was head of training and Organizational Development for a global, tier-1 automotive supplier. We had two workplace homicides—although neither was technically a “workplace” homicide. In one case, the jealous husband of a woman who was having an affair with a coworker gunned down both parties as soon as they left our parking lot, and since they were neither on the clock nor on the property they didn’t show up in OSHA’s figures. About a year later, an eerily similar event took place when a woman who was estranged from her abusive husband went for a drink after work with a male coworker. The husband followed the couple to the bar and shot them both dead in the parking lot. Again, this wasn’t on the clock or our property so it “didn’t count” as far as OSHA was concerned, but in both cases, it sent a panic through the people who knew the particulars and it fell to me to research how to better protect our company and our employees from this type of attack. That research, coupled with copious research into the differences between mass shootings, “going postal”, and single shooter workplace violence. If that isn’t enough expertise for you to heed my advice stop reading, it makes no difference to me.
As for my agenda, well, as I said, I never wanted to write the book, and I never considered myself a feminist, but as I did the research I was horrified by a) the statistics, and b) the complete apathy shown by men when I shared those statistics. I want us to start a dialog internationally about domestic violence that spreads into the workplace and how we can spot potential targets or perpetrators BEFORE we even hire them. Again, if you find that agenda distasteful in some way, quit reading.
But for those of you still reading I’d like to share some facts:
- According to the Bureau of LaborStatistics homicide is the ninth leading cause of workplace deaths. For companies struggling to reduce workplace fatalities one would think that this would be a priority, but sadly in too many instances, this is not the case.
- Homicide is the leading cause of workplace death for women. A male blogger, (I won’t mention his name because frankly, I think he is a misogynistic pig who doesn’t deserve the publicity) bitterly complains that “while the majority of workplace fatalities are men and nobody cares because they are men.” He goes on to howl about the injustice of protecting women when men perform the riskiest work. Okay, it’s true most workplace deaths are men nor are they homicides, but according to Jacolyn Smith in an article on America’s most deadly jobs Forbes 10 Most Deadly Jobs this is how the jobs stack up:
- Logging workers
- Fishers and related fishing workers
- Aircraft pilot and flight engineers
- Structural iron and steel workers
- Refuse and recyclable material collectors
- Electrical power-line installers and repairers
- Drivers/sales workers and truck drivers
- Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers
- Construction laborers
In addition to the obvious fact that these are jobs are clearly intrinsically more unsafe than other jobs, they are also jobs and industries dominated by men. So yes, it makes sense that more men die on the job when men are doing the riskiest jobs. This same article asserts that some jobs, like firefighters and police officers, are relatively safe occupations.
So if you are responsible for the safety of anyone in these 10 industries workplace violence probably isn’t as much a problem for you, but you’ve got your hands full with the risks you routinely face. That having been said, I think that it is a big leap for the knucklehead spouting that nobody cares about these deaths because the deceased are men. I for one care about workers irrespective of gender, but I am not responsible for workers in these injuries, so I leave the commentary about their deaths to those who are intimately acquainted with the facts.
- Women Are Over 20 Times More Likely to Be A Target of A Family Member or Domestic Partner Than Men. Women are most vulnerable while at work in a typical workplace. They may get a protective order and keep a violent abuser away from there home, their family and friends’ homes, but they are often reluctant to inform their employer of the threat. This leaves the killer with knowledge of exactly when and where his target will be.
- Mass Shootings and Workplace Violence Are Different. A mass shooter is typically someone who—for whatever misguided reason— wants to kill a LOT of people. He may claim to hate a certain race, creed, color, religion, or political affiliation, but in general, his (mass shootings are overwhelmingly male) goal is to amass as large a body count as possible. He also likely has an arsenal and a preference for “soft targets” areas where a large number of people gather, there is limited opportunity for them to escape, and few if any hiding places. A workplace shooter is typically one of two types of people:
- The jilted lover. Women typically are murdered by an abusive domestic partner or family member.
- Life spun out of control. Sometimes when things go south—the triggers vary wildly but divorce, financial hardship, personal or professional setbacks are primary causes—an individual may enter a downward spiral and a descent into drugs and alcohol that lead to issues at work and when handles poorly, the worker exerts the last bit of control he can muster and kills the boss and others he feels have wronged him.
There are clear and effective ways of preventing both of these kinds of violence in the workplace, but they are NOT the same as reacting to a mass shooting. And taking advice from someone that doesn’t know the difference is worse than doing nothing.
I am not saying that there isn’t value in learning more about mass shootings, but in the context of worker safety, I think it is more important to protect yourself from the more likely scenario. Understanding the problem is the first step towards preventing it, and in my view, we owe our workers more than a “how-to-survive” guide and need to work to predict, prevent, and mitigate the risks associated with workplace violence.
I am proud to announce that Marriah Publishing has published my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. This is all new material that cannot be found anywhere else. But like I said, I would advise you to wait a week or two.
Did you like this post? If so you will probably like my book which can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Nobel.com.
Did you hate this post? Did it offend you deeply? Maybe you should organize a book burning (minimum of 150 books) but be sure you are only burning my book, I don’t want you to go to a used book store and buy a bunch of cheap books and stack mine on top.
The book is a compilation of blog posts, guest blogs, magazine article (from around the world) and new material. Much of it is hard to find unless you know where to look. A second and third book has already been green-lighted by the publisher (expect fewer reprints and more new material).
In all seriousness, I have been blogging for free (without sponsors or advertising) clearly damned near zero moral support from people who could and do benefit from my notoriety for over 11 years and I think I have earned a bit of revenue so buy a damned book.