Workplace violence is a serious problem, with homicides representing the fourth leading cause of workplace fatalities. Approximately two million American workers are victims of workplace violence each year, and it's become a growing concern for both employers and employees nationwide.
What qualifies as workplace violence?
Workplace violence is violence or the threat of violence against workers, which occurs at or outside of the workplace. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide.
Workplace violence includes both words/threats/intimidation 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 a 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.
Homicide is a leading cause of death on the job for women in the United States.
Guns are used to intimidate and threaten 4-6 times more often than they are used to thwart crime.
In 2008, 67% of all homicides were committed with firearms.
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.
How can workplace violence be reduced?
1) Identify Risk Factors Including Vulnerable Employees
Identifying potential risk factors is key and can help to prevent and minimize risk. Conducting a worksite assessment can help raise awareness for workers and work environments that may be at a higher risk of exposure to violence. This can include workers who:
Exchange money with the public
Deliver passengers, goods or services
Work alone or in small groups
Work during late night or early morning hours
Work in high-crime areas
Have extensive contact with the public
This group includes health care and social service workers, community workers, letter carriers, retail workers and taxi drivers.
2) Establish a Workplace Violence Prevention Program
A well written, workplace violence prevention program is an important step in reducing violence. One of the key pieces of such a program is establishing a zero-tolerance policy towards workplace violence, either against or by your employees.
Also, every employee should understand that any violent behavior in the workplace is subject to investigation and the resulting consequences. It's critical that employees understand the components of the program and that the document is easy to understand and accessible for review.
3) Implement Security Measures
Secure the workplace with video surveillance, extra lighting and alarm systems
Provide drop safes to limit the amount of cash on hand and keep a minimal amount of cash in registers during evenings and late-night hours
Equip field staff with cell phones and hand-held alarms
Instruct employees not to enter any location where they feel unsafe
Inform healthcare providers of their rights, such as their right to refuse to provide services in a clearly hazardous situation
4) Provide Proper Training and Policies
Educate employees so they know what conduct is not acceptable and what to do if subjected to workplace violence
Alert supervisors to any concerns about safety or security
Avoid having employees travel alone into unfamiliar locations or situations whenever possible
Make sure employees carry only minimal money and required ID into community settings
Unfortunately, even with the above precautions in place, nothing guarantees that one of your employees won't become the victim of workplace violence.
In the event of a violent incident, you must provide prompt medical evaluation and treatment and report them to the local police as promptly as possible.
After a distressing event of workplace violence, you should discuss the incident with staff members and encourage everyone to share ways to avoid similar situations in the future. For really traumatic events, it's wise to offer counseling services to help your employees recover.