Workplace safety – What can we learn from Virginia shooting

I had recently read the NY Times article on Virginia shooting that had been shared in the NAPBS newsletter. The article is excellent as it brings out the workplace safety issues in light of the shooting. It also shows the very delicate line between managing the employees who may have mental health issues and terminating them if they exhibit risky behaviour towards their co-workers.

This set me thinking. What have been the recent parallels in India? Three of the recent high profile incidents have been:

–          A very senior HR leader at Manesar Plant of Maruti Suzuki was attacked and killed by agitating workers.

–          The DGM (Ops) of Graphite India – Powermax Steel division, was killed when some suspended workers agitating outside the plant at Bolangir (Orissa) stopped his car and allegedly set it on fire.

–          The CEO & MD of Cerlikon-Graziano Transmission India Pvt Ltd was beaten to death by agitating workers.

While this is not a significant dataset, it does appear that in India workplace violence is seen as act of groups of disgruntled and agitating employees rather than a single employee seeking vendetta against a reporting manager or a set of co-workers.

As far as mitigating the first scenario goes, lots of research has been done on the front of industrial labour relations. It is beyond my expertise and capability to provide any recommendations on that. My only observation is that comprehensive background verification can still help in identifying if there is any such violent streak from the past.

And as far as the second scenario (of individual employee seeking vendetta against a single reporting manager or a set of co-workers) is concerned, while the risk may appear to be controlled and limited, it still is worthwhile to complete a comprehensive employment / work history and reference verification. In such checks, it is very important to isolate how, why, in what conditions and with what behaviour did a prospective candidate leave his/her earlier employers. As members of HR/recruitment team, hiring managers and leadership team, the onus still lies on us to ensure that we are keeping the workplace safe by keeping out the potentially violent individuals.

What do you think? How can we ensure better workplace safety in a predictive and preventive manner?

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