Gun Violence: A Growing Threat in the Workplace

Liz Carey

Minneapolis, MN (WorkersCompensation.com) – As the snow fell on I-35 Tuesday, Feb. 4, Kenneth Lilly allegedly felt a school bus scrape his car while it merged onto the roadway and, as the traffic slowed because of the weather, he approached the car and confronted the driver.

As caught on camera, Lilly then opened fire on the 78-year-old bus driver, injuring him in the neck and shoulder.

It was the third widely reported workplace shooting of 2019, following a year that saw a workplace shooting nearly every other week, and a year that saw one of the country’s worst school shootings, in which several employees were killed, Parkland, FL’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s shooting, in the country’s history.

Lilly was charged Friday, Feb. 7 with second degree attempted murder and second degree assault. The bus driver suffered non-life threatening injuries, while the 8-year-old passenger suffered no injuries at all. Lilly claims that he felt threatened and needed to draw the gun to protect himself.

According to statistics, the largest workplace shooting occurred in 2015 when 35 people were shot and some killed in San Bernardino, Cal. In that shooting, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik opened fire at the Inland Regional Center where Farook worked, killing 14 and wounding 21, 10 critically. The two were later killed by police as they fled in their SUV.

On Sept. 20, 2018, three workplace shootings occurred within 24 hours of each other, including shootings at a RiteAid warehouse, where Snochia Moseley, 26, an allegedly disgruntled employee, shot her victims outside the building and on the warehouse floor. She later died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

It was the 33rd workplace mass shooting since 1986. A mass shooting is defined as a shooting where more than three people are killed.

Not long after that, in November 2018, a shooter would enter a bar in Thousand Oaks, Cal., and begin shooting, killing two patrons, a security guard and two police officers, before being shot himself.

But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, shootings, not just mass shootings, account for 10 percent of all workplace homicides. In 2015, the BLS recorded 500 homicides at work, out of the more than 5,000 workplace deaths that year. Of those, 394 were from guns. In 2017, that number dropped to 458 with only 351 being from guns. In context, in 2012, 476 cases of homicide at work were reported, and of those 381 were from shooting.

According to the Office of Victims of Crime statistics, these numbers are going up, however. Over the past 10 years, the number of mass shootings is increasing. In 2018, there were 348 cases of mass shootings. The Victims of Crimes office estimates that the majority of mass shootings between 2000 and 2015 were at businesses.

So, while the perception may be that the perpetrators of gun violence at the workplace are strangers who randomly come in and shoot in a store or business, the reality, experts say, is that most workplace-related homicides stem from domestic violence, suicides or robbery-related incidents.

“While we get the big spectacular coverage from shootings and mass attacks, historically that has not been the leading cause of death for shootings,…” said Frank Figliozzi, a former FBI assistant director who consults on workplace violence at ETS Risk Management, in Risk & Insurance Magazine.

And according to the Maricopa Community College Department of Public Safety, the majority of the perpetrators of these events most often have a past or present employment relationship with the place of business, or a personal relationship with an employee at the business.

Those in careers most likely to experience gun violence are also surprising. Taxi cab drivers, delivery drivers and retail workers are most likely to be victims of workplace violence, according to Injury Facts.

“It’s not just the victims who are injured… the workplace also pays a price with disengaged performance and increased health risks… It is imperative, to the business bottom-line, that employees are protected” the employment issues firm said in its “Roadmap to Mental Health and Excellence at Work”.

The firm said the effects are long reaching too.

For up to two months after an incident, there can be as much as a 50 percent decrease in productivity and a 20-40 percent increase in employee turnover, the firm said in a statement. And the average cost of a single homicide at a workplace can cost a business between $250,000 and $1 million, the firm said.

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