I was in Boise, Idaho, last week, where I spoke on “Workplace Violence” at the annual Workers’ Compensation Seminar produced by the Idaho Industrial Commission. I think it went well in the sense that no one threw anything at me. Any presentation on workplace violence that doesn’t turn into a real-life example of workplace violence has to be considered a win, I suppose.

One of the things reviewed with the audience were the four categories of workplace violence established by NIOSH, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. They have established the categories of Criminal Intent, Client/Customer, Worker to Worker and Personal Relationships. We added a fifth category to that list, as it was felt some incidences just could not easily fit into the other four. It was called Random Incident. I had to explain to the audience that this phrase was used out of respect for the Commission. I did not feel it was appropriate to embed the term “Bat Shit Crazy” into a PowerPoint.

But that was the intent of “Random Incident.” Some violent acts are just the result of people who have no criminal intent; they are simply bat shit crazy. 

Our story today would likely be categorized as Worker to Worker, but there has to be some Bat Shit Crazy in there somewhere. It seems a scientist in Antarctica has been accused of attempted murder after he stabbed a colleague with a kitchen knife. The alleged reason for the assault was that “he was fed up with the man telling him the endings of books.”

The assailant was a scientific engineer, and the victim was a welder. Both were stationed at a lonely Russian research outpost on isolated King George Island, part of the South Shetland island group. They had been stationed there for four years. 

To pass time during this desolate assignment, they had taken to reading books. Our welder apparently was a faster reader, and allegedly kept spoiling the effort for our scientific engineer by blurting out the ending to the books before he could reach that point on his own. The engineer did what any rational human would do after four years alone on a remote island with an annoying know it all; he had an emotional breakdown and tried to murder him. 

It was clearly a combo bat shit crazy worker on worker incident.

The welder was airlifted to Chile with a chest wound and damaged heart. He is expected to survive. The engineer was flown back to St. Petersburg and has been charged with attempted murder.

In Idaho, attendees were told that workplace violence could happen anywhere, to anyone. What was not realized during that presentation was that such a remote example of “happening anywhere” would crop up as quickly as it did.  

It is to date the only recorded incident of an attempted murder on the remote continent of Antarctica. You could say it was one for the record books. Unfortunately for our scientific engineer, he no longer has his welder friend to tell him how this one ends.

He’ll have to figure that one out all by himself.

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