On Wednesday, January 26, 2005, 54-year-old Myles Meyers walked into DaimlerChrysler’s Toledo, Ohio, assembly plant holding a double-barrel shotgun under his coat. Myers, a Jeep repairman, approached Yiesha Martin, a 27-year-old stock supervisor, and stated his intensions. He was there to murder three supervisors: Mike Toney, 45, Roy Thacker, 50, and Carrie Woggerman, 24. Afterward, he said, he would turn the gun on himself. “I was shaking and I started to cry” said Martin. Meyers told her not to cry and to page Tony. Although he was usually eating lunch at his desk around this time, Tony was busy dealing with a problem on the production line. On Martin’s secretary attempt, Toney responded. Thacker, however, was the first of Meyer’s intended victims to approach the former employee.
When Thacker asked Meyers why he was at the office, “[Meyers] turned from the partition and just shot him,” Martin recalled. “I just saw the shells go. He reloaded in front of me”. Martin ran, grabbling a radio in the process. As he ran away, calling into her radio for help, she heard another gunshot. Mike Toney had just arrived and was now the second victim. Carrie Woggerman was able to flee after the first shot, but Paul Medlen, 41, while attempting to come to the aid of Toney, was shot in the chest by Meyers just before Meyers turned the gun on himself, taking his own life. Of the three employees shot by Meyers, two survived. Unfortunately, Thacker died from his wounds.
Regrettably, the shooting at the Toledo assembly plant was not an isolated incident. Just 2 years earlier, Doug Willaims, an employee at Lockheed Martin, left in the middle of an ethics meeting, went to his car, and came back with several guns. He then shot six coworkers to death and wounded eight others before committing suicide. Every year, nearly half of US workers report having faced aggression from coworkers, customers, or supervisors. And according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), roughly 20,000 assaults and 792 homicides occurred at workplaces throughout the US in 2005. Such violence prompted the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to label workplace violence a “national epidemic”.
In addition to the obvious devastation workplace violence causes victims and their families, businesses of the experience serious repercussions, including legal action. Lockheed Martin is still embroiled in a legal battle over whether the company should assume part of the responsibility for the shooting that took place at its plant. And Paul Medlen has filed suit against DaimlerChrysler and the plant’s security firm, alleging that both failed to provide adequate security. Given the tremendous damage that companies and employees face violent episodes, why aren’t businesses doing more to curtail workplace violence? According to a recent study by the American Society of Safety Engineers, only one percent of US businesses have formal antiviolence policies.
Advice on how to reduce workplace violence abounds. According to former FBI agent Doug Kane, people who behave violently often announce or hint at their intentions before violence occurs. Managers, then, need to be aware of at-risk employees who may commit violent acts and should encourage employees to report any threatening or suspicious behavior. Some employees of the DaimlerChrysler plant are even suggesting that metal detectors be installed to prevent future violence. Whatever measures are taken, it is clear that workplace violence is an issue that needs to be addressed for employees to feel safe at work.
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