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Workplace Violence: Violence Can Happen Here

Workplace Violence Examined

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A very real, clear and present danger lurks just beyond the consciousness of people who work together eight to ten hours a day, five to seven days a week. It is the potential for violence to occur in your workplace.

Increasingly, the Human Resources function is both the target of these threats of workplace violence and the organization's first line of defense for the prevention of workplace violence.

What causes workplace violence? Are violent actions more likely to occur at work? What actions or changes tell an organization that an individual has the potential to commit a violent act at work? This article about workplace violence answers these questions for the health and safety of your employees.

 

The Facts About Workplace Violence

Homicide is the second leading cause of fatal occupational injury in the United States. Nearly 1,000 workers are murdered and 1.5 million are assaulted in the workplace each year.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), in additional information about workplace violence, there were 709 workplace homicides in 1998. These accounted for 12 percent of the total 6,026 fatal work injuries in the United States. Of these 709 workplace homicide victims in 1998, 80 percent were shot and nine percent were stabbed.

According to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), 2 million assaults and threats of violence against Americans at work occur annually. The most common type of workplace crime was assault with an average of 1.5 million a year.

There were 396,000 aggravated assaults, 51,000 rapes and sexual assaults, 84,000 robberies, and 1,000 homicides reported. These figures likely fall short of the actual number of violent acts occurring in workplaces as not all acts of workplace violence are reported.

 

Workplaces Prone to Workplace Violence

The news media tend to sensationalize acts of workplace violence that involve coworkers. In sensationalizing incidents of workplace violence, they remove the emphasis from the most important targets for workplace safety programs. In fact, the most common motive for job-related homicide is robbery, accounting for 85 percent of workplace violence deaths.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), provides information that illustrates anyone can become the victim of a workplace assault, but the risks are greater for workplace violence in certain industries and occupations. The taxicab industry has the highest risk, nearly 60 times the national average for potential workplace violence.

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.

They were followed by police, with 234,200 officers victimized. Disputes among coworkers and with customers and clients accounted for about one-tenth of the total incidences of workplace violence annually.

Thus, while this article emphasizes violence between coworkers, no responsible safety process in the workplace can ignore the fact that violence is more likely to come from outside the immediate workplace.

However, you can recognize the potential for workplace violence.

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