While millions of U.S. workers report workplace violence annually, many more go unrecorded. This article discusses how to identify the early warning signs and risk mitigation strategies to protect your business and employees.
During 2020, the National Safety Council (NSC) discovered on-the-job assaults resulted in over 20,000 injuries and nearly 400 fatalities. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found several factors elevate the risk of workplace violence, including exchanging money, working with unstable individuals, providing services and care, and positions where alcohol is served. The highest risk industries are delivery driving, health care, public service, law enforcement and customer service.
Workplace Violence Defined
OSHA recognizes workplace violence as the act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening disruptive behavior. Workplace violence can include actions or words that threaten or harm and cause a belief of danger. Examples include:
- Verbal or physical harassment
- Verbal or physical threats
- Assaults or other violence
- Any other behavior that causes an unsafe feeling (e.g., bullying, sexual harassment)
Violence and injuries are the third-leading cause of U.S. fatal occupational injuries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) states that of the over 5,000 fatal workplace injuries during 2019, nearly 800 were intentional. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, workplace violence falls into four categories:
- Criminal intent
- Personal relationship (overwhelmingly targeting women)
Know the Warning Signs
Violence can originate from many factors, including revenge, robbery or a personal ideology. While predicting an attack is difficult,recognizing certain behaviors can provide clues to potential violent tendencies. Behaviors documented by the NSC that signal potential future violence include:
- Excessive drug or alcohol abuse
- Declining job performance, excessive absenteeism or altering behavior
- Verbalizing thoughts of depression or suicide
- Complaints of unfair treatment or extreme resistance to change
- Violating company policies
- Mood swings or overly emotional to criticism
Many risk mitigation strategies can help to prevent work place violence or other irreversible negative action from happening.
- Require employees to participate in safety training and learn how to apply that training to their jobs.
- Suggest employees review and comply with all company safety procedures and precautions.
- Encourage staff to share any suggestions for a safer workplace.
- Require that all violent incidents be reported immediately and accurately, regardless if the violence involves an employee(s), vendor or client/customer.
- Immediately call 911 for all seriously violent incidents.
- Require that all employees report violence-intended behaviors (e.g., threatening, bullying, stalking, harassing). Any repetitive instances should be documented.
- Encourage employees to notify their supervisor if they feel threatened, nervous or desire additional security measures.
- Request staff to report worrisome or distinguishable coworker behavioral changes to their supervisor.
- Communicate to employees that your company does not penalize employees for reporting violence, regardless if they’re the victim or witnessed an incident. Reiterate that your company maintains complete confidentiality and safety is a top concern.
We’re Here to Help
While preventive measures cannot guarantee workplace violence will be eliminated, these tactics can help to lower your business’ risk and provide needed protection for your employees. As April is Workplace Violence Awareness Month, take this time to initiate or refresh your company’s policies and procedures to lower your exposure. If you have questions about workplace violence prevention or your insurance coverage, connect with a memberof our team .