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Protecting employees from acts of workplace violence

On Wednesday, Dec. 2, a workplace meeting turned into a scene of tragedy as a mass shooting took place in which 14 people were killed and 21 injured. One of the individuals responsible for the shooting deaths was an employee who, for reasons that are still unclear, abruptly left the meeting and later returned with his wife and guns to carry out the attack.

While the scope of this mass shooting is unique, unfortunately workplace shootings and other acts of workplace violence are not. In fact, according to thinkprogress.org, during 2013 alone a total of 397 U.S. workers were killed at work. Of these fatalities, 316 were victims of "intentional workplace shootings."

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that from 2006 to 2010, "an average of 551 workers per year were killed as a result of work-related homicides." This number has likely increased during the last five years and is a stark reminder of the numerous and serious dangers that U.S. workers face, as they head out to earn a paycheck, on a daily basis.

Among those workers deemed most at-risk for being victims of workplace violence are those who have a lot of contact with members of the general public including nurses, taxi drivers, utility workers and mail and delivery personnel. Some acts of violence, like this week's tragedy, are difficult to anticipate. However, there are steps employers can and should take to protect their employees from experiencing violence in the workplace including increasing security, having a crisis and emergency plan and providing services for employees who are both experiencing workplace harassment or dealing with layoffs or firings.

Source: Wichita Business Journal, "How to protect employees from workplace violence," Dec. 4, 2015

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