The tragedy that struck Knight Transportation in Texas yesterday goes to reinforce the fact that no industry, trucking included, is safe from the threat of workplace violence.
And the threat of workplace violence isn’t going away. 18,000 people are the victims of nonfatal workplace assault each week. As the tragedy in Texas proved, workplace violence can turn fatal; 20 American workers are murdered on the job every week.
Worse, truck drivers may be at special risk for workplace violence because of the high stress and long hours they face every day.
There are almost always warning signs that precede an incidence of workplace violence. Here are some behaviors to look out for.
Workplace Violence Warning Signs
- Paranoia. Workers who believe that their employers or other coworkers are “out to get them” are more likely to become violent. Unreasonable belief in conspiracy theories can be a cause for concern.
- Playing the role of the victim. The shooter in the Knight Transportation tragedy reportedly claimed that the company had “ruined” his life before he shot a coworker and then himself. Many people who are prone to workplace violence refuse to accept personal responsibility for their actions.
- Dramatic demands. Making unreasonable demands of others within in the workplace is a red flag that matters might escalate. An employee who, say, insists on a personal apology from the company CEO for a minor incident could be at increased risk for committing an act of workplace violence.
- Unhealthy lifestyle choices. An employee who uses drugs, abuses alcohol, or engages in other unhealthy behaviors could be more likely to hurt his coworkers.
- Being recently fired or laid off. The financial, social, and emotional stress of losing a job is a huge trigger for workplace violence. The Knight Transportation shooter was recently fired leading up to the attack.
- Sudden social withdrawal. Some workers will withdraw before an act of workplace violence because they are having difficulty coping.
- Making threats. This may seem obvious, but many people don’t take a coworker’s threats seriously. Be especially on guard if the person appears to have a plan to make good on his threats.
If you are concerned about the threat of a coworker becoming violent, contact your company’s HR representative. This person should be well-trained in how to deal with the threat of workplace violence. When in doubt, you can always contact the police.