In a quiet suburb outside of Atlanta, on a balmy August day in 2014 that seemed exactly like any other, a telecommunication worker paused on a residential street. This worker saw a person approaching his company vehicle, which was still in drive. He kept his foot on the brake and rolled down his window, ready to interact with a customer.

“I saw a guy approach my vehicle on my left. I didn’t think anything of it,” the worker said. “I should have, but customers do that all the time.” Unfortunately, this wasn’t a customer. The man who approached his vehicle snatched the door open. “If you don’t get out right now, my man is going to shoot you,” he said, pointing to a gunman who had approached the vehicle from the other side. The telecom worker leapt out of the vehicle, tearing a tendon in his knee badly enough that it would require surgery and several months of rehabilitation. But the worker wasn’t thinking about surgery at that moment. He was relieved that he hadn’t gotten shot. “The guy … looked like he was really about to pull the trigger,” he said. “And my heart jumped, and I just completely jumped out of the vehicle and landed the wrong way. I looked at my knee and it looked really deformed.”

The carjackers took the company vehicle on a high-speed police chase down the interstate, which eventually ended when authorities boxed in the vehicle and arrested the duo. The worker, meanwhile, says he’s grateful to be alive. “He was going to kill me,” the worker said.

**** Unfortunately, incidents like the one described above are far too commonplace. A few years ago, a delivery carrier in Charlotte, North Carolina was attacked in the parking lot by two random assailants. As the employee was walking to her vehicle, two men attacked her with a crowbar, stole her purse and her car, and drove away. The worker was hospitalized with serious injuries. One man was arrested and faced several charges, including robbery with a dangerous weapon. ****

More than 2 million Americans are victims of workplace violence, which can take place either on-the-job or while workers are commuting to and from work. Those who work alone for any portion of their shift are particularly vulnerable. More than 40 million workers in the U.S. are classified as lone workers.

Violence at work poses a multitude of negative consequences for the entire workforce. In addition to its obvious detriment to the victim, workplace violence results:

  • in decreased employee morale,
  • a damaged company reputation,
  • problems with recruitment and retention,
  • increased anxiety and poor performance,
  • higher absenteeism,
  • higher insurance costs and
  • decreased productivity.

How can companies help protect workers from violence and other incidents? Here are a few tips:

  • Focus on both prevention and response. Many companies focus only on prevention, but having a robust response-management program in place is equally crucial.
  • Use technology. Modern technology, particularly wearables, allow for real-time detection and notification. This enhances both prevention and response.
  • Establish and review procedures. When crisis situations happen, its essential that companies have a strong plan in place.