Trauma, injuries, and death from violence in the workplace can no longer be ignored.

The case is listed below. The instruction is in attachment.

The Parking Lot

 

How safe is your work environment?  Workplace violence, from harassment to fistfights, from sabotage to simple assault, from damaged property to shootings, is becoming more frequent each year.  The rate of the ultimate violent act, homicide, has increased in the last decade.  As a direct result of this phenomena,  a new phrase – going postal – has entered the language and most Americans are aware of the meaning.  The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reported that from 1980 to 1985, workplace homicide was the third leading cause of occupational death, accounting for 13% of all workplace deaths.  According to an article in the Mar Apr 1995 issue of Business Horizons, “Today workplace homicide is the second leading cause of work related deaths – behind only motor vehicle crashes – and accounts for about 17% of job fatalities.”

Statistically, in 2008, 23 people per day are victims of homicide while at work.  Nearly 80% of these homicides are attributed to robbery and an additional 11% are statistics of security guards and police officers.  This leaves approximately 451 homicides perpetuated by coworkers, former employees, customers, or acquaintances per year in the United States. (http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/osar0014.htm).  Additionally, there are innocent bystanders and non-employees killed who are not included in these statistics, according to the Business Horizons article.

While some people argue that media stories exaggerate workplace homicide and that more people are killed by lightning each year than by coworkers (not true…look it up!), the general duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act requires companies to provide employees with a safe work environment.  The wording does not say try to provide.

Trauma, injuries, and death from violence in the workplace can no longer be ignored.  Studies imply that most incidents can be predicted because almost every homicide begins with threats – direct, conditional, or veiled threats.  Most incidents can be prevented but companies must be ever so cautious in how they deal with potential violence given liability and right to privacy issues.

 

The Conflict Surfaces

 

6 months ago Gary Shaw was promoted from Day shift supervisor to his current position as supervisor of the maintenance department.  One of his first actions was to promote Bob Wison to his old job as day shift supervisor.  As Department Manager, Gary practiced the technique of Management by Wandering Around (MBWA).  He could be expected to show up during any of the three shifts – days 7AM to 3PM, afternoon – 3PM to 11PM, night – 11PM to 7 AM.  Gary believed he was familiar with all employees and their strengths and weaknesses.  His employees knew that he was always willing to help out when needed even though he preferred to let employees work through problems on their own.

On Thursday, April 20, Gary heard through the grapevine that Joe Headly, an employee on the day shift, had threatened Bob Wison during a verbal confrontation witnessed by several employees.  When Gary confronted Bob about this matter, Bob apologized and said he had resolved the conflict.  Bob explained that Joe appeared to be having personal problems that were negatively affecting his work performance and in the discussion about his work performance, Headly became angry and raised his voice.  Bob thought the problem had been resolved.  Bob explained that he had been extremely busy with his new supervisory responsibilities and therefore had not discussed the matter with Gary.

Within ten days, Gary heard through the grapevine that Headly had been overheard to say,”I’m going to shoot that bastard!”  Gary became concerned and contemplated going to see the Director of HR to discuss the matter.  Another visit with Bob revealed that he felt the grapevine had blown the situation entirely out of proportion.  Gary wondered what he should do, but continued with his daily tasks.  He put the matter on the back burner in his mind and soon forgot about it.

Shortly before midnight on Thursday May 4, the ring of his telephone awoke Gary from a sound sleep.  The call from the on duty emergency room policeman informed him that Bob Wison had been shot in the employee parking lot and was pronounced dead at the scene.  The policeman could give no explanation for the shooting and said there were no witnesses.

Gary had been at the hospital since receiving the telephone call.  He had not realized it until he called her that night to tell her the bad news, but Bob and his wife had been separated for several months.  Gary was aware of employee privacy rights and was proud of the fact that he did not pry or intrude.  He assumed with his MBWA style that people would confide in him and let him in on things that were important to him, as well as them.  Later, as he interviewed numerous employees, Gary reached the conclusion that he did not know his employees as well as he thought he did.  Not only was Bob legally separated, but so was Joe Headly and many of the hospital employees knew about this.  But Gary did not.  They also knew that Bob and Joe had recently fought over a woman, but the details of this altercation were largely unknown.

Another call from the local police dispatcher informed Gary that Joe had strolled into the County Jail, admitted the crime and turned himself in.  The dispatcher indicated that Joe turned in a .22 caliber handgun, believed to be the weapon that was used to kill Bob Wison.  According to the dispatcher, another policeman had asked Joe if he was involved in the shooting and Joe replied, “Yes. I shot a man.”  Joe Headly was allegedly waiting in the parking lot with his gun when Bob Wison left the building.  Joe told police only that Bob had “been ruining his life and giving him a hard time” before asking for an attorney.

Joe Headly had worked at CarLis from the beginning and in earlier years, he and Bob had been good friends.  Police reported that Joe shot Bob three times – twice at close range and the third and last time while standing over the fallen man.

Later, Headly’s attorney announced that a set of extenuating circumstances should weigh in his client’s favor when and if the case went to trial.  Joe had turned himself in almost immediately and had no previous criminal record in adult or juvenile court.  Joe accuses Bob Wison of having a relationship with his wife that was causing his attempts at reconciliation in their relationship to fail. His wife repeatedly denied these allegations or that any relationship in fact had ever existed. But Joe claimed that Bob had been “obsessed “ with his wife.  He said that Bob had flowers delivered to her on the night of the shooting.  The two had been friends for many years.

Gary is having trouble sleeping at night and wonders what he could have done to prevent the killing.  What would he have done if Bob indicated he needed help in dealing with Joe rather than saying the situation was under control?

All this brings Gary to the heart of the matter.  What should he and CarLis have done to reduce the possibility of this tragedy? What steps should the hospital take to protect the company and employees from all forms of workplace violence in the future?

 

This case was prepared by Ed Scott and Sherry Hockemeyer of IUPU at Fort Wayne.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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