Magazine article Risk Management

Workplace Homicides on the Decline

Magazine article Risk Management

Workplace Homicides on the Decline

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Omar Thornton was fired on August 3, 2010. He arrived for a 7 a.m disciplinary meeting at the Connecticut beer distributor where he worked, and after being shown a video his employer had recorded of him stealing a case of beer, was given an ultimatum: resign or be fired. Thornton signed a resignation agreement before reportedly excusing himself to get a drink of water. That was when the horror began.

Thornton used two Ruger pistols he had concealed in his lunchbox to kill nine coworkers during a 45-minute shooting rampage throughout the facility before taking his own life. It was the deadliest workplace shooting in Connecticut history.

Fortunately, tragedies like this are becoming less common. The likelihood of a workplace homicide is now half what it was in the mid-1990s, according to a recent report by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI). This trend mirrors a declining national homicide rate, but workplace killings have fallen off even more rapidly. There were 950 in 1993 compared to just 462 in 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This represents a 59% drop-off in workplace homicides over 16 years compared to an overall U.S. homicide rate that fell 49%. The number of homicides has also fallen as a percentage of overall workplace deaths. In 1992, 17% were due to homicide compared to just 11% in 2009. (Auto accidents remain the top killer, holding steady at around 40% of all workplace deaths throughout at least the past two decades.)

The massacre in Connecticut was unusual in another way: the homicides were committed by a coworker. "Contrary to popular belief," states the Spring 2000 issue of Compensation and Working Conditions, "the majority of ]workplace homicides] are not crimes of passion committed by disgruntled coworkers and spouses, but rather result from robberies. …

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