The horrific tragedy in San Bernardino that took the lives of 14 people and injured 21 earlier this month is one of several examples of workplace violence that forever changed the lives of so many. Those images of innocent people gunned down at a holiday gathering in yet another senseless violent act are haunting and the pain felt by those workers and their families is unimaginable.
This blog is not about gun control, mental illness or terrorism. It’s about violence that, unfortunately, is increasing in the workplace where many people are vulnerable. It has been reported that deaths resulting from workplace violence have ranked among the top causes of occupational fatalities in American workplaces. Additionally, nearly 2 million workers are reported to be victims each year of some type of workplace violence.
More than 3,000 people died from workplace homicide between 2006 and 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Additional BLS data indicate that an average of more than 15,000 nonfatal workplace injury cases was reported annually during this time.
According to Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the 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. Homicide is currently the fourth-leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), of the 4,547 fatal workplace injuries that occurred in the United States in 2010, 506 were workplace homicides.
OSHA recently developed a webpage to provide employers and workers with strategies and tools for preventing workplace violence in healthcare settings. The webpage, part of OSHA’s Worker Safety in Hospitals website, complements the updated Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers, published earlier this year. The new webpage includes real-life examples from healthcare organizations that have incorporated successful workplace violence prevention programs, and models of how a workplace violence prevention program can complement and enhance an organization’s strategies for compliance and a culture of safety.
Workplace violence includes both words/threats/intimidations as well as the use of weapons to cause bodily harm. There is a disturbing amount of cases involving firearms in the workplace. Though most employers have a strict policy against bringing firearms into their facilities, many workers have brought concealed weapons into the workplace.
Although firearms related incidents of violence may account for a small percentage of all crimes of violence that occur in the workplace, such crimes have the highest potential for lethal results. Gun violence in the workplace has devastating impact on victims, employees, the workplace, and the community. When a firearm is introduced into the workplace, in an instant an assault can turn deadly and end in multiple homicides.
OSHA has reported that homicide is a leading cause of death on the job for women in the United States. Also, seventy-seven percent of workplace homicides are committed with firearms. Each firearm injury results in medical costs of $17,000. Total cost of injuries is $2.3 billion per year.
Workplace violence can be reduced by identifying potential workplace violence risk factors. Identification helps prevent and minimize risk. Establishing a no tolerance policy with regard to workplace violence is highly recommended. This includes anyone who may come in contact with your employees.
Worksite assessments are also recommended by OSHA to reduce incidents of violence in the workplace. As outlined on their web page, a well written and implemented Workplace Violence Prevention Program, combined with engineering controls, administrative controls and training can reduce the incidence of workplace violence in both the private sector and Federal workplaces.
Studies by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health show that employers who implement effective safety measures can reduce the incidence of workplace violence. This includes training employees on workplace violence and encouraging employees to report assaults or threats, in addition to conducting workplace violence hazard analyses.
Other recommendations by OSHA include using entrance door detectors or buzzer systems in retail establishments and providing adequately trained staff, alarms and employee “safe rooms” for use during emergencies in health care settings, can help minimize risk.
Recognize the potential for violence in the workplace. Be aware of workers who seem unstable or may carry a weapon. Alert your managers of any threats immediately.
Arbill is a safety solutions company. We are all about protecting your workers in the workplace. Our mission is to keep workers safe and return home safely at the end of the day. Visit arbill.com for more information about being safe… and subscribe to the Arbill Safety Blog so that you never miss out on great safety tips and information.
Have a safe day!