Incidents of workplace violence are not isolated to law enforcement, healthcare or retail workers. They can occur at any workplace.
The national news these days is filled with tragic reports of law enforcement officers who have been gunned down either in the line of duty or who have been ambushed and killed because of their badges.
But the recent murder of 38-year-old Elivelton Dias, of Salem, Mass., a sous chef at P.F. Chang's in the Northshore Mall in Peabody, Mass., who was stabbed to death by a co-worker, is a reminder that workplace violence can affect all working people and is not limited to certain professions or types of workplace.
Dias came to the United States from Vitoria, Brazil in 2002, in part because of the violence he saw all around him in Brazil. His sister, speaking to a reporter from the Boston Globe, said Dias felt safe in the United States. His life was going well; his wife had just given birth to their first child, a baby girl, on Aug. 22.
All of that ended on Aug. 26, when co-worker Jaquan Huston, 23, grabbed a knife in the restaurant’s kitchen and stabbed Dias in the back during the dinner rush. Co-workers screamed and rushed to help Diaz while Huston ran out of the restaurant. Diaz was taken to Salem Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Huston has been arrested and charged with aggravated murder.
All employers should have plans in place to protect their employees in the event of a violent confrontation, said the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health (MassCOSH) in a statement.
“There is a perception out there that it’s only certain industries like construction and law enforcement that really have to worry about staying safe on the job,” said MassCOSH Executive Director Marcy Goldstein-Gelb. “But we see workplace violence claiming far too many lives every year in almost every industry, and it’s crucial that all workplaces have a plan in place so workers know what to do and can best protect themselves.”
In a statement, P.F. Chang officials said, “We will be mobilizing support to provide care to our colleague’s family, as well as our fellow employees, during this difficult time. We are also cooperating with local law enforcement as they conduct their investigation.”
In 2014, workplace violence was the fourth leading cause of death on the job. Between 2010 and 2014, 17 workers were murdered at work in Massachusetts. Retail workers, delivery drivers, health care professionals, public service workers, customer service agents and law enforcement personnel all are at elevated risk of workplace violence. There are a number of well-documented factors that increase the risk, including exchanging money with the public, working alone or in isolated areas, working at night, providing services and care and working where alcohol is served.
OSHA has recognized the frequency and devastating impact of workplace violence and has awarded MassCOSH a Susan Harwood grant to train workers and employers in ways to avert violence on the job. MassCOSH also is actively training teenage workers in the state and with partner organizations in New York, California and Pennsylvania to protect young workers who work at retail establishments.