Lessons from the Cupertino Workplace Shootings

On the night of October 5  last year, many of us found ourselves glued to the TV screen awaiting news updates about a truck driver from Cupertino, CA who was responsible for a workplace shooting rampage earlier that morning which killed three people and injured seven others. And like many of the action flicks that have become common fare for our movie industry, we were stunned when we received news that the rampaging employee had been shot down and killed the next day.

But the gunman’s story left far more questions at the wake of his death. Here was an employee named Shareef Allman, a man described by co-workers and friends as “a pillar of the African American community and a kind-hearted mediator of conflict” pulling a handgun and an assault rifle from his jacket at around 4:30 a.m. and suddenly opening fire on his co-workers. Some of these same co-workers at the Lehigh Southwest Cement Co. Plant would later say that Allman was acting strangely that day, and seemed to be avoiding contact.

The mystery surrounding Allman’s fatal rampage would deepen further when autopsy reports found that the gunman had died from a self-inflicted gun wound rather than from gun wounds inflicted by the police deputies who caught up with him.

This recent workplace shooting may have left a lot of questions unanswered, but it has definitely come as a painful and powerful reminder of how vulnerable workers can be in a workplace that has little or no policies in place to prevent workplace violence. Within our own country, an average of 700 workplace homicides still take place each year. These are lives that could have been easily saved with the right company and safety policies in place to keep workplace tensions in check.

If your company does not have a clear and comprehensive policy to prevent workplace violence, now is the time to develop a strong and effective one. Ensure that all employees are properly trained to detect early warning signs of workplace violence. Identify trouble areas in your workplace such as entrances and exits as well as populated sections that have been known to be common eruption spots for violence, and put up the necessary security measures. There are a host of other things that can be done. The point is – do them now.

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