Violence in the Workplace
An average of 20 workers are murdered each week in the United States, and an estimated 18,000 per week are victims of nonfatal workplace assaults, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Homicide is the second leading cause of death on the job, and is the leading cause among females and workers under 18 years old. Most nonfatal workplace assaults occur in service settings, such as social service agencies and hospitals, with 48 percent committed by health care patients. Outside of social service settings, robbery is often a motive.
Anyone can become the victim of a workplace assault, but the risks are much greater in certain occupations. For homicides, the occupations at highest risk are taxicab drivers/ chauffeurs; sheriffs/bailiffs; police officers, detectives and public service employees; gas station/garage workers; and security guards. The majority of nonfatal assaults, however, occur in the service and retail trade industries.
A number of environmental, administrative and behavioral strategies can reduce the risk of workplace violence. Prevention can be enhanced by good visibility within and outside the place of business; protective cash-handling strategies; physical separation of workers from customers; good lighting; security devices; escort services; and employee training.
“No single strategy is appropriate for all workplaces, but all workers and employers should assess the risk of violence in their work setting and try to reduce those risks,” says M. W., M.D., medical director of OccNet. OccNet is the occupational health service of the Health Alliance. “A good workplace violence prevention program should include systems for documenting incidents, following procedures in the event of incidents and fostering open communication between employers and workers,” she explains.
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