"All employers have a general duty to provide employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm."
Mandate of OSH Act of 1970 Section 5(a)(1)
I will start out by saying overall; a lot of us spend more time with coworkers then our own family. When you think about it, we spend 8 to 10 hours a day with these people, 5 to 7 days a week; there's LOADS of potential there for violent acts (physical or otherwise). That was meant lightheartedly, but in all seriousness, we can spend seemingly TOO much time with our coworkers. You may ask, “Why is this relevant to me?” Well, the answer lies in the statistic that the most common motive for job-related homicide is robbery; it accounts for 85% of workplace violence deaths. How many times have you taken the last donut in the box? Have you ever stolen someone’s stapler? Many of us have seen the aftermath of what can happen if so! Also, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), in America, 2 million assaults and threats of violence occur annually at work. The most common type of workplace crime was assault (average of 1.5 million a year).
3 facts we, as workers, should be aware of.
- Nearly 2 million Americans report they've been victims of violence at work.
- In 2010, 1-in-9 workplace fatalities were homicides.
- Homicide is the most common cause of workplace fatalities in women.
The way OSHA states it, workplace violence can strike anywhere, and no one is immune. Some workers though, are at an increased risk. Workers that exchange money with the public (banking, retail workers); deliver passengers, goods, or services (taxi drivers, couriers); or work alone or in small groups, during late night or early morning hours (utility employees, service installers), etc.
Other occupations at greatest risk include police, detectives, sheriffs, gas station workers, and security guards. In the NCVS study, retail sales workers were the most numerous victims, with 330,000 being attacked each year.
Protecting Yourself/Your Employees?
In most workplaces where risk factors can be identified, the risk of assault can be prevented or minimized if employers take appropriate precautions. According to OSHA, the best protection employers can offer is to establish a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence against or by their employees. This policy should cover all workers, patients, clients, visitors, contractors, and anyone else who may come in contact with company personnel. OSHA believes that 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.
Nothing can guarantee that an employee will not become a victim of workplace violence, however, learning to recognize, avoid, or diffuse potentially violent situations by attending personal safety training programs and supervisors to any concerns about safety or security and report all incidents immediately in writing can help reduce the odds.
3 strategies to implement:
- Handheld metal detectors. Facts: A Detroit hospital found that after implementing these for 6 months; 33 handguns, 1,324 knives, 97 mace-type sprays were found/confiscated.
- Utilizing ID badges/color-coded passes/limiting access to certain floors. Facts: A New York City hospital implemented this strategy and reduced violent crimes by 65%.
- A database that identified those with a history of violence. Facts: A veteran's hospital in Oregon found that this action reduced violent attacks by 91.6%.
OSHA encourages employers to develop additional methods as necessary to protect employees in high risk industries.
In closing, if you stay vigilant in knowing your employees, you can take preemptive measures and action that may prevent an occurrence of workplace violence.
- Know your employees! Most importantly, know when an employee’s behavior is out of the norm.
- Facilitate training! Train your staff/coworkers that reporting unusual behavior to Human Resources should be acceptable and expected.