I have been involved in the employee safety field since the 1990s. The incident that induced me to create the Workplace Violence Prevention Institute (WVPI) was the shocking August 2015 live on-air killings of TV news reporter Allison Parker, 27, and videographer Adam Ward, 24 by a disgruntled former colleague. Vicki Gardner who was being interviewed at the time of hte attack and who was also shot miraculously survived.
I was in Europe at the time when news reached me of this horrific tragedy. While there, I wrote an in-depth article about these killings, the connection to workplace violence and the issue of prevention including one which was published in an insurance trade magazine in October 2015.
Also while in Europe, I discussed over the phone my ideas and goals of creating a WVPI "Think Tank" comprised of interdisciplinary professionals to collaborate and address the increasing tragedy of workplace violence with my friends Gregory Rucker, the Director of Public Safety for Willingboro Township, New Jersey, and Eric Berry who served as Township Manager for a number of municipalities in that state.
Director Gregory Rucker (center)
Director Rucker and Mr. Berry both enthusiastically agreed that something needed to be done on a proactive basis to research and educate the American public about workplace violence. Whatever I had in mind they wanted to be involved.
I returned to the United States in January 2016 and had the pleasure of meeting several new colleagues including Stuart Silverman, Esq. and Felix P. Nater who along with Director Rucker, Mr. Berry, forensic psychologist Dr. Robert Tanenbaum and about 20 other professionals from business, law, safety, and other fields joined me for the first ever meeting of the WVPI's Think Tank on June 3, 2016 in Willingboro Township. One of the speakers was one of the three attorneys I'd interviewed for my aforementioned October 2015 article.
Dr. Robert Tanenbaum presenting a module on Bullying at a WVPI meeting.
Felix Nater at a WVPI meeting presenting a module on safety and risk mitigation.
My son Joseph created a memorial "wall" consisting of the names of 37 Americans including Allison Parker and Adam Ward who were part of my initial research on workplace violence. Joseph did so after hearing me ponder about the Labor Day holiday and rhetorically ask whether a wall needed to be constructed at the United States Department of Labor bearing the names of all who had been killed at work similar to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to raise awareness that too many people are suffering even dying while trying to earn a living.
Joseph's artwork was displayed during the June 3, 2016 meeting. He made photocopies and signed them for distribution to attendees at that inaugural Think Tank meeting. Joseph's artwork now hangs in the wall of my office.
Sadly the number of victims in my study grew to 160 and Joseph's artwork of the 37 lost from our first meeting will serve as the cover for my forthcoming book which is dedicated in memory of Kenneth ("Kenny") Suttner, 17. I've written about and addressed Kenny's tragic case many times. Kenny was lost to the world on December 21, 2016. His supervisor has been charged with manslaughter in connection with Kenny's death.
In addition, one young professional who wanted to become involved in the WVPI was a dear and close family friend Nick Corvino.
Nick was invited to a July 2016 WVPI meeting in Florida but was unable to make it as he was ill and ultimately hospitalized. He wanted to get involved in anything that happened in Florida and was on the invite list for our 2018 Florida-based initiatives.
On October 10, 2017, Nick was brutally murdered in Kissimmee, shot multiple times as he slept. The accused is a person he'd met in connection with work.
My son Joseph and the man he called a brother, the late Nick Corvino, Thanksgiving Day our home 2016.
On January 1, 2018 the WVPI was organized as a Florida not-for-profit corporation and our mission remains to conduct research and to educate about the growing epidemic of workplace violence.
I have been blessed that so many wonderful people have become a part of the WVPI including Deb Falzoi, Charlotte McDonald, Wendy and Doug Williams, Sgt. Heith Yeager, my dear friend Jane Brady Nosal - Caroline Nosal's mother and Rachel Birse (Ryan Birse's sister).
Caroline and Ryan's names also appear in Joseph's artwork.
Jim Nosal, the late Caroline Nosal who was murdered by a former colleague as she left work on 2/2/16, Amy Nosal, and the activist/fellow mother and my friend Jane Brady Nosal.
Rachel Birse holding a photo of her beloved older brother Ryan who was murdered by a co-worker while at work 2/25/16 in Kentucky. He was just 22.
Meeting the amazing Rachel Birse who lost her brother Ryan due to a senseless act of workplace violence was an honor and a highlight of 2017 for me.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) at least 2,000,000 Americans fall victim to workplace violence each year and "many" other cases go unreported.
We have a long way to go in this country regarding the tragedy that is workplace violence.