Last September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the preliminary results of the 2014 National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. The report revealed 4,679 fatal work injuries were recorded in the U.S. in 2014, an increase of 2 percent over 2013’s numbers. Nearly 750 of these workplace deaths were due to violence and other injuries by persons or animals. Among those classified as homicides, 32 percent involved relatives or domestic partners when female workers were the victims. Thirty-three percent of workplace homicides with male victims were robberies.
These figures do not include non-fatal incidents, as they are more difficult to track. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) more than 2 million American workers experience workplace violence each year—from harassment, intimidation and verbal abuse to threats of physical violence, physical assaults and homicide. Workplace violence may be perpetrated by other employees, clients, customers or workplace visitors—and it should be a major concern for employers nationwide.
Certain worksite factors may increase the risk of violence—such as exchanging money with the public, serving alcohol, or providing care for volatile individuals. High-risk professionals include delivery and taxi drivers, healthcare and public service workers, police officers and customer service agents, and anyone who works alone, late at night, or in a high-crime area.
Fortunately, there are steps all employers can take to reduce the risk of violence in their workplaces and protect the lives of their staff. We recommend that you engage the assistance of a workplace safety professional as you complete the following:
- Create a zero-tolerance workplace violence policy. It should be clearly worded and detail how the employer defines workplace violence, the conduct the policy prohibits, methods for reporting violations, and how these reports will be investigated. It should also outline the disciplinary actions employees can expect if they engage in workplace violence. The Society for Human Resource Management has a template you can use as a starting place here .
- Identify your workplace’s risk factors. Do you have employees who work alone? Does your business require early morning or late night shifts? Can you control who enters the building or jobsite? Do your employees work with money or prescription medications? Are their areas of poor lighting on your premises? Do your employees deal with volatile customers regularly? Take a close look at the day-to-day operations of your business and talk to your employees about their experience.
- Create a workplace violence prevention program. This can be a standalone program or you can integrate it into your general injury and illness prevention program. Regardless, you should schedule periodic training sessions with your employees to ensure they understand the role they play in successfully preventing workplace violence including reporting and logging all incidents or suspected incidents and avoiding potentially dangerous situations whenever possible.
If you’re ready to address the threat of violence in your workplace, we can help. Contact us today for a review of your safety program.