In 2016 the manufacturing industry reported no less than 36 fatalities and 570 injuries due to workplace violence.  Many of these incidents follow a familiar script with a similar and tragic outcome.

Douglas  Williams, was a 48-year-old divorced father of two.  He was an assembly line worker at the Lockheed Martin plant in Meridian, Mississippi and had worked at the aeronautics giant for 19 years.  On July 8, 2003 he opened fire with a shotgun that he had stored in his truck and shot 14 of his co-workers, killing six of them.

On the day of the shooting, Williams attended a mandatory ethics and diversity training class together with 13 other co-workers.  This training event is not unlike the typical training events that happen hundreds of times every day across the United States by both private and public manufacturing companies.  According to some of William’s colleagues, he arrived at the manufacturing plant in an agitated state and made threats to kill other workers.  On the other hand, other co-workers talked to him prior to the shooting and he gave no indications that anything was so wrong that he would take the life of others.  Later, the theories attributed to this horrific act included, a bitter divorce, a malfunctioning time card system at the plant and bigotry.

Why are manufacturing workers at risk?

There seems to be no end to the potential reasons why workers in this category are at risk, but its important to know that most incidents involve co-workers and mental illness is the leading cause.  And, 80% of fatalities were the result of a fire arm.  It stands to reason that many people don’t leave their issues at home but rather bring them to work where they spend 8-10 hours a day.  Below are a small sampling of incidents throughout the United States.

  • [1989] Standard Gravure Company – Joseph  T. Wesbecker opens fire and kills eight co-workers wounding twelve more.  Cause: Mental Illness.
  • [2012] Accent Signage – Andrew J. Engeldinger opens fire and kills four former co-workers wounding four more.  Cause: Mental Illness.
  • [1988] ESL Incorporated – Richard Wade Farley opens fire and kills seven co-workers wounding four more.  Cause: Domestic Issue.
  • [2000] Edgewater Technology – Michael McDermott opens fire and kills seven co-workers and wounding no one else.  Cause:  Disgruntled Employee
  • [2008] Atlantis Plastics – Wesley Neal Higdon opens fire and kills five co-workers and wounds one more.  Cause:  Disgruntled Employee.
  • [2001] Navistar International – William D. Baker opens fire and kills five co-workers and wounds four others.  Cause:  Revenge

What can you do?

The best thing to do is to acknowledge that the potential for vulnerability exists at your manufacturing plant and then have an assessment conducted by professionals who can do the following:

  1. Develop emergency action plan.
  2. Consider proactive measures when employees are served with legal process.
  3. Determine the right training/education for supervisory staff.
  4. Conduct reality based training for active shooter incidents.
  5. Review and update employment policies.

Next steps…

Has your company developed a plan and prepared your employees for a potential lethal event that would have devastating and life treating consequences?  Now is the time to collaborate with professionals who have first hand experience. Click here to contact us.

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