WORKPLACE VIOLENCEA CONCERN FOR VA. COMPANIES ; SHOOTINGS AT ADVANCE AUTO PARTS IN MAY JOLTED MANY BUSINESSES
In an apparent move for revenge, Trevious Baldwin shot her former Advance Auto Parts manager, Marvin Schwandt, and then turned the gun on herself. Baldwin, 36, of Vinton, died at the scene, and Schwandt is still recovering. The scene that played out at the companyís Roanoke County headquarters in May illustrates the increasing fear surrounding the dismissal of employees. Such events force companies to re-evaluate safety policies and procedures, as well as address lingering fears that employees may have. Employees that witness a violent event at work need special care, workplace experts say. "These things play over in your mind. It haunts you for a while," said Tim Fitzgerald, president of Safety and Compliance Services in Roanoke. In the Advance Auto shooting incident, Baldwin had been fired May 7. For some reason, Baldwin felt Schwandt hated her, a friend told The Roanoke Times. According to Roanoke County police accounts, Baldwin drove a rental car t! o Advance Autoís corporate offices on Airport Road about noon three days later. She began letting the air out of Schwandtís car tire, police said. When Schwandt went to the parking lot to check on his car, Baldwin shot him and then turned the gun on herself, police said. Advance Auto offered counseling to employees immediately after the incident, but the company declined to comment on other provisions for employees, including whether Advance Auto had put into place new security policies and procedures. Itís not uncommon for company officials to clam up about violent incidents at work, experts say. Fitzgerald said some companies seek to silence violent incidents instead of allowing workers to talk about them either among themselves, as a company or with counselors. However, companies must address emotional scars, Fitzgerald said. Workplace shootings Workplace shootings are the second-most-common cause of occupational fatalities in Virginia, behind transportation a! ccidents. But homicides play a small role in the number of workplace deaths. According to Virginiaís Department of Labor and Industry, assaults and violent acts made up 18 percent of the 148 workplace fatalities in 2000. Homicides that involved a gun accounted for 11 of the deaths. Managerial and professional positions had the highest occurrence of fatalities based on occupations. The group made up 32 percent of the fatalities. These most often affected convenience store managers. Jennifer Wester, supervisor for research and analysis for the state Department of Labor and Industry, said violent acts tend to be random occurrences that show no real year-to-year trends. Although homicides are a small segment of workplace deaths, consultants advise companies to outline responses for such events before they occur. At least three firms contacted Fitzgerald after hearing about the shootings at Advance Auto in May, he said. The callers had concerns regarding buildi! ng and parking lot access, a weapons policy and how to enforce such policies. Besides protecting the companyís profitability, employers have to ensure that their biggest commodity - their employees - is safe, Fitzgerald said. "When you have fear, productivity goes," he said. Companies have to worry about being held liable for workplace deaths. But they also need to be concerned about suffering from a tarnished image if they fail to address certain workplace issues, such as bullying, sexual harassment, drug use, weapons and others. Firing policies Policies and procedures at work should be up-to-date, while companies train employees to adhere to them. "A policy should be a living document," Fitzgerald said. Companies also have to review hiring, training, evaluation and firing policies, which experts say nips problems from the beginning. Managers, supervisors and owners should watch how they handle terminations, said Steve Kaufer, co-founder of Workplace V! iolence Research Institute in Palm Springs, Calif. Employers should listen carefully for clues during terminations that may indicate a violent reaction, he said. And employers should treat a fired employee with dignity and connect them to outplacement services. "Make sure that they have a feeling of hope. That this isnít the end of the line for them," Kaufer said. Losing a job is traumatic, even when workers see it coming, said William Frank, chairman of workplace consulting firm CareerLab in Englewood, Colo. "Treat each situation as a lethal time bomb," Frank warns on his companyís Web site,www.careerlab.com. "The moment of separation is often a crisis. If itís handled well, everything thereafter goes smoothly, but if itís handled poorly, anything can happen."