A violent incident at a Vancouver Starbucks illustrates that workplace violence can happen in the most unexpected locations

Understanding the threat of domestic violence spilling into the workplace

It is reasonable for a person to believe that certain industries are immune to incidents of workplace violence. However, even the most seemingly docile industries can be subject to tragedy, necessitating a regularly updated business continuity plan that addresses action protocols for violent situations.

For example, even when a business is quiet and calm, issues related to domestic violence could spill over into the workplace, and as such, employers need to be prepared. An issue of this nature unfolded in tragic fashion at a Vancouver Starbucks in 2000 after an individual named Mirhashem Seyed-Fatemi charged into the coffee shop brandishing a butcher knife to confront his wife who was employed at the establishment.

According to reports, the shop manager Tony McNaughton, attempted to defend his employee and was stabbed repeatedly by Seyed-Fatemi. He later died of his wounds.

In response, McNaughton's life partner Allen Sawkins has undertaken an initiative to increase awareness around the prevalence of domestic violence spilling into the workplace to mitigate the likelihood that similar tragedies occur in the future. Part of the initiative involves identifying warning signs that an employee is in an abusive relationship.

For example, when a person calls the workplace repeatedly demanding to know where their partner is, what he or she is doing on breaks and who he or she associates with may indicate a lack of stability that could indicate violent tendencies.

While Sawkins has helped develop free resources for employers to process, a more personalized approach to preventing domestic violence incidents in the workplace can be obtained by sending corporate representatives to attend the Tabletop Exercise On Crisis Management Planning, Workplace Violence Prevention And Response Planning As A Business Continuity Consideration workshop.

Part of the Continuity Insights Management Conference 2012 in Scottsdale, Arizona, taking place from April 16 to 18, this workshop will include detailed exercises in order to optimize preparedness for an instance of violence and provide enterprise representatives with the tools to prevent unnecessary deaths and injuries in the workplace.