workplace violence
workplace violence

clock June 5, 2019

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Understanding Workplace Violence and Who is Most Vulnerable

Every year more than 2 million Americans are affected by workplace violence. In 2017, there were at least 458 fatalities and 18,400 workplace violence injuries. The level of workplace violence is said to be much higher than what is published considering that some cases go unreported.

So, what is workplace violence?

Workplace Violence Definition

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), workplace violence can be termed as the threat or act of violence directed towards workers. It can range from physical assault to verbal abuse. This often results in physical injury, homicides or psychological issues.

It can also be defined as the threatening disruptive behavior expressed towards persons on duty or at a work site. It does not necessarily have to involve physical injury.

Who Is Most Vulnerable?

It’s hard to point out the occupations that are most affected by workplace violence. This is because workplace violence has more to do with the work environment and the people than with the work being done.

Even so, data on workplace violence suggest that workers in the caring profession tend to experience more incidences of violence than other workers in other professions.

Workers who engage with the public alone or handle money are at a greater risk of workplace violence.

They include:
• Postal workers 
• Cashiers 
• Taxi drivers
• Convenience store attendants 
• Government employees who ate in charge of enforcing or carrying out inspection
• Workers in the criminal justice system or social services 
• Food and beverage staff especially where alcohol is served

What Are Some of the Common Types of Workplace Violence?

For you to reduce the risk of being subjected to workplace violence, it’s advisable that you understand the different types of workplace violence. This will help understand the people who are most vulnerable to it. There are four main types.

1. Criminal Intent

This is perhaps the most commonly discussed type of workplace violence. It’s common in workplaces that handle valuables and cash or establishment that are open even late at night. In most cases, the perpetrator has no legitimate affiliations with the business and usually a crime combined with acts of violence.

Such acts often result in homicides and account for more than 85% of workplace homicides.

2. Personal Relationship

There are times when the perpetrator has no affiliation with the business but instead has a relationship with an employee of the company. In such cases, the said employee is often the target of violence. This category encompasses victims of domestic violence who experience similar treatment by their loved ones while at work.

It accounts for about 5% of total workplace homicides.

3. Worker-On-Worker

The perpetrator can be either a past employee or a current employee who exhibits violent behavior towards a past or present employee of the organization. The violence can be in the form of threats or physical injuries in an attempt to silence a coworker.

Fatalities resulting from worker-on-worker violence accounts for about 7% of total workplace homicides.

4. Customer or Client

This type of violence is very common but the number of fatalities is minimal compared to the rest. This category is large as it encompasses any situation where the perpetrator becomes violent while he/she is being served by a business.

It includes patients, customers, inmates, students, clients, or any other group where services are offered.

A big percentage of such acts occur in the healthcare industry especially in nursing homes and psychiatric facilities. More often than not, the victims of violence are caregivers.

Flight attendants, teachers, and police officers are also exposed to this type of violence. It accounts for about 3% of total workplace homicides.

Understanding how each type of workplace violence arises will help you come up with measures to prevent them.

What Is the Role of Employers to Curb Workplace Violence?

No one is immune to workplace violence, which is why employers are encouraged to formulate policies that shun occupational violence.

They can offer additional employee protection by:

i. Educating the employees on the conducts that are acceptable and those that aren’t, measures to take if they or their coworkers are subjected to occupational violence.

ii. Provide enough security for the workplace. It can be by installing alarm systems, video surveillance, or any other security measure that limits access to your workplace to only unauthorized persons.

iii. Provide drop safes at the workplace. This helps to minimize the amount of cash that employees carry on their person. Also, empty the registers before night shift.

iv. Encourage employees to report any violent incidences.

v. Inform victims of workplace violence of their right to seek legal assistance where necessary

vi. Investigate all reports of violence in the workplace. While there is no official

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard for occupational violence, there are guidelines on how to deal with the vice. OSHA recommends that night retail establishments should provide violence protection programs to their employees.

Any employer who does not comply with these guidelines opens themselves and organizations up to possible liability.

Are Employers Responsible for Any Violent Acts Committed Against Their Employees?

If an act of violence is committed against an employee, the employer is not automatically liable. However, if the employer knew about it and didn’t try to intervene before things got out of hand, they might be held liable.

In such situations, worker compensation laws dictate the employer should pay the employee for any injuries sustained while on the job.

Therefore, if you experience any form of workplace violence be sure to report the incidence to your supervisor. If the supervisor shows no interest or does not follow up and you experience another act of workplace violence, report the matter to your local police. You can also file a complaint with the OSHA.

According to the Workplace Violence Research Institute (WVRI), the cost of workplace violence in the U.S averages about $36 billion. These costs include higher insurance rates, loss of valuable employees, loss of business, productivity and reputation, repairs, cleanups, medical and psychiatric care.

The Cost of Workplace Violence Is Very High

Businesses that fail to provide a safe working environment for their employees and customers are at risk of liability. This could be in the form of a civil action for negligent hiring or poor working conditions. Due to this reason, companies are advised to have worker compensation insurance and dedicate efforts towards the prevention of workplace violence.

Contact us to find out more about the worker’s compensation plans available to your business. 

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