Schools are supposed to be safe. Churches are designed for safe havens. Yet, some individuals can make it a hazardous place for employees. As people start blaming their economic troubles on others, employers can become a prime target for workplace violence. This situation even happens in local communities. On Wednesday, February 10, 2010, a school principal and assistant principal at Inskip Elementary School were shot by a fourth-grade teacher. This article focuses on what local organizations can do to prevent workplace violence.
February 10th was a dark day for Knox County School. Inskip Elementary School Teacher Mark Foster shot Principal Elisa Luna and Assistant Principal Amy Brace in an apparent workplace violence incident. Foster was arrested 15 minutes after the shooting according to Knoxville police reports. No students were involved in the incident. The school has approximately 800 students.
Knoxville School Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre stated in a press conference that the school system had planned not to keep Foster on its payroll. It is believed that both victims will survive. Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale’s office issued a statement, “The incident at Inskip Elementary School is a profoundly tragic situation. Mayor Ragsdale has visited with Ms. Brace and the family of Ms. Luna. He told them that the thoughts and prayers of all Knox Countians are with them during this difficult period. We wish them both a full and speedy recovery.”
The growing trend of workplace violence is troubling to most local organizations. Workplace violence can be categorized in the following manner: (a) employer directed, which is aimed at the workplace authorities such as supervisors, (b) domestic directed, which involves a partner or intimate relationship, (c) property directed, which includes any property of the company or employer, and (d) commercial directed, which notes an employee participates in acts against the organization such as theft.
Unfortunately, homicide is now the third highest work-related cause of death in the US. According to a National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health study between 1980 to 1988, homicide accounted for 12% of job-related deaths. Additionally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that homicide was the leading cause of death for women in the workplace. In a survey of over 500 companies, the American Management Association found nearly one-fourth of the companies stated that a minimum of one employee had been attacked or murdered on the job since 1990.
Organizations can take a proactive stance about potential violence in the workplace. Some organizations are more prone to these acts than others such as convenient stores and taxicab services. However, no institution is safe or exempt from this happening. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed the following strategies for organizations:
• Company policy statement on workplace violence
• Threat assessment
• Hazard assessment
• Workplace security analysis
• Workplace survey
• Control and prevention
• Training and education
• Incident prevention and investigation
• Workplace violence recordkeeping
An economic crisis can bring out the worst in individuals. Therefore, it is important that organization stay on guard and maintain a safe work environment.
Unfortunately, what happened at Inskip Elementary is a scenario likely to take place in other organizations as the economy continues to falter. Some employers will isolate workplace violence to more risky professionals. However, employers who view employees as human capital assets will take preventive actions to keep their employees safe. A crisis can showcase the best of character.
President John F. Kennedy noted, “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis’. One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger-but recognize the opportunity.” By being proactive, employers can show their employees that they care about their well-being and safety.
(c) 2010 by Daryl D. Green