In September 1989, Joseph T. Wesbecker ("Wesbecker"), an employee who was on long-term disability leave from his job at the Standard Gravure Company in Louisville, Kentucky, entered the plant and killed eight co-workers with a semi-automatic assault rifle. Twelve other workers were injured by Wesbecker before he took his own life. Wesbecker, an emotionally disturbed employee of the company, had his life evaluated by experts and it was determined that he did not fit into the classic model for the prediction of violent behaviour.

In March, 1996, Thomas Hamilton entered the gymnasium at the Dunblane Primary School in Scotland and started shooting sporadically, killing fifteen children, one teacher and seriously injuring many others. They had sustained a total of 58 gunshot wounds. The shooting spree ended when Hamilton took his own life. The tragedy was magnified because of the death of so many children.

A Canadian study recently identified a number of examples of workplace violence, including: a health care aide who was punched in the side of the head; a hotel doorman who broke a hand when escorting a drunk from the bar; a bus driver who was assaulted after requiring a passenger to pay the fare; a cashier who was robbed at knife-point; and numerous injuries sustained by police officers in the line of duty.1 In August, 1998, Frank Roberts, the inventor of the Obus Forme backrest was shot dead as he stepped out of his Mercedes motor vehicle after arriving at work. Police investigating to homicide indicated they would be checking for possible disgruntled employees.

In Japan, the longstanding recession had resulted in major corporate downsizing that had not been known in that country before, shattering career stability and assumptions about Japanese economic life. Loss of life-time positions and job security had been accompanied by bullying other white collar workers. The problem had become so severe that a "bullying hot line" was established by the Tokyo Managers Union.

In Germany, after unification of West Germany and East Germany, a national study revealed that 93 percent of women questioned stated that they had been sexually harassed at the workplace during the course of their career. The problem was so pervasive that sexual harassment in the workplace was not considered an 'exceptional phenomenon' in the day-to-day working life of women in Germany.

Workplace violence is not only an American or Canadian problem, it is an international problem as has been documented in a recent study by the International Labour Organization. A broad based 32 country survey of trend in workplace violence was conducted in the early 1990's by an International Working Group composed of representatives of the Ministry of Justice of the Netherlands, the United National Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute and the Home Office of the United Kingdom. While the scope and findings of that international study are beyond the intended purpose this book, they emphasize that workplace violence is a real and growing problem in most developed countries covered by the study.

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