Wednesday, July 06, 2011

"It Can't Happen Here." (Until It Does)

"Aside from your family, who do you spend the majority of your time with?" 

If I asked you that question, many of you would probably say your co-workers. I know it is true here at CAEPV - we certainly spend a great deal of time together and know one another well. 

Apparently Jermey "Billy" Davis and and Andre Johnson knew each other well, too. They worked together for years at LG & E. Mr. Johnson was Mr. Davis' supervisor.

"We're a family of employees, we really are," said LG&E spokesman Chip Keeling. "Everyone knows everyone that works in these areas, and they do a lot of things together outside the office, so this is a terrible tragedy."

What happened?  Apparently the men had a dispute that lasted more than a year. And on July 5, Mr. Davis came into this "family of employees" and did the unthinkable - he killed Mr. Johnson and then killed himself.

You can read more on the story here.  I am sure much more will develop as the investigators learn more and as the days move forward.

I am so sorry for all involved - and for all those who are devastasted at home and at work. Their lives will never be the same. My heart goes out to everyone.

I am not here to speculate on what LG & E could or should have done - or what they did right or wrong -- because I do not know that. 

I do know this - whenever I am asked "What is the most dangerous position for any employer to be in regarding workplace violence?"  My answer is this:

The most dangerous position for an employer to be in regarding workplace violence is the position that "It can't happen here." 

Because as long as an employer takes that position....the workplace is vulnerable and is not considering steps to prevent a situation like what happened at LG & E.

Often employers think:
  • Workplace violence only happens at big companies.
  • I know everyone here, and no one here would do anything like that.
  • We screen employees before we hire, so we are safe.
  • We lock non-employees out, and they are the only people we have to worry about.
  • Workplace violence is a lot of hype.
  • Preventing workplace violence is expensive and we can't afford it.

Fortunately (and unfortunately) none of the above are true.  Employers can do simple things like:

  • Making sure they have a policy to address workplace violence
  • Creating a culture of workplace safety and respect - from hiring through orientation, performance management, dismissal or employee exit
  • Addressing physical plant issues with an eye for safety
  • Training employees to notice and report safety concerns  - including concerns about concerning behavior in co-workers
  • Management acting in a timely and respectful manner when concerns are reported
  • Providing resources for employees who need help
  • Never assuming they know "who" is or is not capable of workplace violence

I am amazed that employers who say they are "too small" to address workplace violence have plans for a possible terrorist attack.  And while I hope they see neither, I would argue they are more likely to see an event of workplace violence.

But once an employer begins to think "Ok, workplace violence COULD happen here. So - how can we address it?"  then the workplace begins to be in a position to possibly prevent a situation like the one at LG+E. Before it becomes explosive.  Or heartbreaking. Or deadly.

For information or resources (including a sample policy), please visit our website at

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