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Dec 28 2009

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Expert analyzes workplace violence

By Cheryl Mercedes, WAFB.com

An expert explains why he thinks the number of incidents of workplace violence keep climbing. Research shows over 1.5 million workers are assaulted on the job now, which is nearly double the number of victims of attacks on the job from the year 2000.

Malcolm Douglas is a graduate of Cambridge University. He has spent his career looking at workplace violence, especially situations that end tragically. According to Douglas, about 1,000 workers are killed each year at their place of employment.

Following a shooting at the office of a construction company Wednesday, accused gunman Richard Matthews said he opened fire at the business because he was upset over unemployment issues. Douglas said something like that, combined with the pressure of the holiday season, could have very well put the man over the edge.

“They build artificial expectations and barriers on themselves and now they can’t meet that,” Douglas noted. “The pressure starts to build and the bills come and the cycle continues on.”

Workplace violence is broken down into four different groups. The first is criminal intent, which describes what happened in this latest shooting. The second is client versus worker. The third is worker versus worker. The fourth is personal relationships, such as a domestic situation. One example of this type happened at a Popeyes in Walker. Christopher Pell walked into the restaurant, pulled out a knife and slit his wife, Janah’s throat while she worked.

“It’s society’s inability to admit there is something wrong, but there are ways to curb the violence,” Douglas said.

He suggests rigorous background checks, training employees to deal with violent situations and opening the doors of communication. He believes those techniques can break down some of the barriers that often end in violence.

In the case of Matthews, investigators said he had not returned to Grady Crawford Construction in the five months after he was fired. Douglas said typically, there isn’t that long of a wait. The violence is usually immediate. He also noted 60 percent of the reported incidents of workplace violence occur in the healthcare profession.

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