Prevention the Solution to Workplace Violence

By Minter, Stephen G. | Occupational Hazards, August 2003 | Go to article overview

Prevention the Solution to Workplace Violence


Minter, Stephen G., Occupational Hazards


Shortly after Doug Williams fatally shot five coworkers and then himself (in addition to wounding eight others) at the Lockheed Martin plant in Meridian, Miss., we spoke to Larry Chavez, a veteran Sacramento police officer who now leads Critical Incident Associates, an organization dedicated to the prevention of workplace violence.

Occupational Hazards: How did you become interested in workplace violence?

Chavez: I was a police negotiator for 16 of my 30 years with the Sacramento Police Department. In that capacity, I dealt with workplace violence and domestic violence situations on a first-band basis, but I was resolving them at the wrong time. By that, I mean we weren't there in a preventive mode. We were there in the aftermath. In every one of these cases, I saw aspects that led me to believe they could have been dealt with early on and the situation would not have turned out to be tragic. I made notes over the years and started teaching the prevention of workplace violence.

OH: Do companies pay enough attention to workplace violence?

Chavez: That's my gripe. According to a 1995 study by the Society for Human Resource Management, only 35 percent of employers trained managers and supervisors on workplace violence awareness and prevention. That is horrible in terms of viewing this as a threat.

If you walk into any lunchroom or employee lounge, you'll see things on the wall with regard to sexual harassment, discrimination, wage discrimination and safety. You'll see nothing whatsoever on workplace violence.

OH: Why doesn't this issue have a higher profile?

Chavez: They feel it is so rare that the likelihood of it striking them is probably nil. Looking at the odds, they are probably right. But when it does hit them, it catches everybody with their guard down and the aftermath of these situations are horrendous in terms of human life and lawsuits.

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