In late January, a former U.S. postal worker went on a shooting rampage at a
mail processing plant in the town of Goleta near Santa Barbara. The ex-employee
killed five, wounded another, and then turned the gun on herself. She reportedly
had been placed on medical leave from her job in 2003 for psychological
reasons–at that time, she allegedly had to be removed from the building by the
sheriff because she was acting strangely.
Not all incidents of workplace violence can be avoided–and only a
thorough investigation will reveal whether this tragedy in particular could have
been averted. But many workplace violence situations can be prevented, and this
latest incident is a reminder that employers need to be doing all they can.
Your violence prevention program should include, among other things, full
training for supervisors on the warning signs that a co-worker, subordinate, or
former employee may be headed for an explosion. Signals to look for include:
- Fascination with (not simple ownership of) weapons
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Severe stress (for example, from personal problems)
- Anguish over a pending or recent demotion or termination
- History of violent incidents
- Psychological deterioration, such as bizarre behavior or sudden
- Decreased or inconsistent job functioning
- Social isolation or poor peer relationships
- Poor personal hygiene, especially if it is a change
- Other major personality changes
7 Steps for Preventing Workplace Violence
A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management reveals that more than half the companies in the United States have experienced some form of workplace violence.
Learn how to protect your workplace with our free White Paper, 7 Steps for Preventing Workplace Violence.