This article will continue to discuss the subject of workplace violence. In part 1, we discussed the different forms in which workplace violence can manifest. Workplace violence can range from threatening or offensive language and, in the most extreme cases, homicide.
According to OSHA, violence in the workplace is an increasing problem prevalent in the United States. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, there are approximately two million workers victimized each year, with about 700 resulting in homicide. 76% of all workplace homicides are committed with a firearm.
Workplace violence, according to a study conducted by the Injury Prevention Research Center has been divided into four types:
• Criminal intent
• Personal relationship
The most common form of occupational violence is criminal intent, accounting for 85% of all workplace homicides. According to the IPRC study, perpetrators who have “no legitimate relationship to the business or employers” committed the homicides.
Many of these homicides are from robbery, trespassing and terrorist attacks, such as the WTC and the Okalahoma City catastrophes.
8%: customer/client or domestic violence.
In 1994, the Justice Department reported that one-sixth of all violent crimes in the United States occur in the workplace.
Less than 10% of homicides in the general population occur during a robbery. In the general population, about 50% of all murder victims were related to their assailants whereas the majority of workplace homicides are believed to occur among people who were not acquainted with one another.
Some occupational settings are more prone to workplace violence including:
Retail trade, service industries, and those workers exchanging money with the public including:
Fast food establishments, convenience and gas stations, taxicab drivers, police officers and security guards.
In fact, taxi cab drivers/chauffeurs, police and detective public service, and sheriffs/bailiffs were reported to have the highest rate of work-related homicide of any other occupations. For the taxicab industry, there is the highest risk at 41.4 out of 100,000, which is nearly 60 times the national average. The majority of nonfatal assaults occurred in the service and retail trades.
Some preventative strategies include:
• Good visibility within and outside the workplace
• Cash handling policies
• Separation physically of workers from customers and clients
• Good lighting
• Security devices
• Employee training
• Escort services, (particularly to parking lots for those working at night)
The risk of violence in an individual workplace should be assessed and appropriate action taken to reduce the risks. A system for documenting incidents, procedures to be employed in the event of incidents and fostering open communication between workers and employers can be put into place.
Some of the most common characteristics cited about employees who commit violence against other employees are as follows:
• White male 25 to 50 years old
• Loner with a history of violence
• Someone who has demonstrated a fascination with weapons
• A worker who has exhibited signs of depression, self-destructive behavior, paranoia and other behaviors typically associated with personality disorders
Criminal Intent offenders are typically motivated by financial gain, such as in robbery and typically not jealousy, revenge or workplace stress, some of the causes cited in worker-on-worker homicides.
Some of the elements of workplace stress which have been linked to worker-on-worker violence in the workplace include:
• Uncertain organizational climate
• Excessive workload
• Inadequate supervision
• Unanswered or unresolved frustrations
• Unexpected or significant change at home or work
• Unclear responsibilities or job functions
• Drastic and philosophical differences between the culture within organization and employee
Many businesses are adding stress management and workplace violence prevention educational programs and increased screening for new hires within their organizations in an attempt to curb the growing problem of workplace violence.
Some Preventative Measures:
• Be aware of the warning signs of violence
• Mentally prepare for what if situations
• Understand company procedures about violent situations
• Be aware of weapons brought into the workplace
• TAKE EACH AND EVERY THREAT SERIOUSLY
• Alert management immediately if any of the above occurs.
In part 3 and future segments, we will examine the different stages of violence warning signs. Red flags that were present in workplace killers will be discussed including triggers and warning signs that perhaps had been ignored. Future segments will include specific information regarding violence against judges, the legal community, health care and social service workers and some of the more high-risk occupations.
Like many workplace problems and challenges faced, being aware and providing adequate education are key to facilitating productive communication. Please do not proceed under the mistaken notion that it can’t happen here” attitude. Unfortunately, no company is immune to workplace violence.
Want to learn more about workplace violence prevention strategies? Please stay tuned for further segments on this subject.
Jamie Charter, consultant, writer and educator on the WorkCompSchool and HRResource.com faculties, can be reached at [email protected]