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Citations follow deadly attack on elderly convenience store clerk

November 30, 2012
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Nancy Harris
Nancy Harris

A man reportedly seeking money for drugs walked into a Whip-In convenience store in Garland, Texas in May, allegedly doused 76-year-old Nancy Harris with a flammable liquid and then set her on fire – after cleaning out the cash register.

Harris clung to life for five days in a local hospital’s burn unit before dying from the second- and third- degree burns she suffered in the attack.

"Handling money, working alone and standing behind open counters leaves employees vulnerable to violent crimes," said OSHA Dallas area director Stephen Boyd, commenting on citations issued in the wake of the incident to TMT, Inc., the company that owns Whip-In stores.

An OSHA investigation into the Garland site and the company's three other stores in Dallas and Mesquite determined that workers at those locations were exposed to the same or similar workplace violence hazards, resulting in citations for four serious safety violations

"If the employer had conducted an analysis to identify risk for violence, implemented appropriate control measures and provided training to ensure awareness of potential violence, it is possible that this tragic loss of life could have been avoided," said Boyd.

Each store was cited with violating OSHA's "general duty clause" for failing to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause serious injury or death. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. The citations carry total proposed penalties of $19,600.

Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening and disruptive behavior that occurs at a work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers and visitors. More information on workplace violence is available at OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/workplaceviolence.

TMT, which is headquartered in Dallas, employs more than 60 employees across the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The suspect in the attack, 36-year-old Matthew Lee Johnson, faces charges of murder and robbery.

“It didn’t look like there was any resistance from her any time,” said Garland police spokesman Officer Joe Harn. “There’s no reason why you would set a 76-year-old woman on fire.”

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Brooks Lyman
November 30, 2012
Not to sound like some sort of neanderthal "gun nut," but arming the clerks in these sort of stores might be something worth considering... By the (admittedly limited) data given in the article, it doesn't sound to me like there would be a whole lot that the company could have done, short of enclosing the cashier in a bulletproof cage with a cash pass-through drawer, which isn't a really viable approach for a convenience store (okay for a self-serve gas station with no store attached, of course).

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