By Cambria Fallon Santiago, The Pensacola News Journal
Violence in the workplace is a serious safety issue; its most extreme form, homicide, is the second-leading cause of all fatal occupational injuries in the United States. For women, homicide is the number one cause of death in the workplace.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), there were 639 workplace homicides in 2001 in the United States, out of 8,786 fatal work injuries. One out of every four employees is attacked, threatened, harassed verbally or physically, at work each year.
With today’s economy in such turmoil, anger and violence are forcing businesses to address the threat.
Job loss, fewer hours worked, low wages, and the wholesale failure of companies going out of business are everyday occurrences in today’s environment. With the increased threat of economic collapse, it’s to be expected that many people have a hard time dealing with the pressure.
Although economic pressure is one reason for violence in the workplace, there are many causes for violent acts.
A long-term employee may become disgruntled if a newer employee is given a promotion that he or she thought they deserved instead. A person may become angered by an extramarital affair. A worker might become distraught after being fired. In most cases, the violence is usually triggered by one specific event, but the tendency toward violence builds up over time.
It is important recognize the signs of potential violence, identify the underlying causes of workplace violence, learn the means to protect yourself and others in the workplace, and understand why incidents of violence must be reported and investigated.
A firmly enforced policy must be in place that does not tolerate or accept any form of violence. Employers have an obligation to their employees to protect them from hazards and harmful working conditions. To the extent possible, this includes protecting them from workplace violence.
Violence should not be tolerated or ignored. This means those victims, or others who are aware of the violence or the potential for violence, must do something about the problem. Failing to act properly might result in an escalation of the problems, resulting in workplace violence.
No incident that sends a signal of potential violence can be ignored; every incident must be taken seriously. The specific action to be taken for each overt threat, veiled threat, or simply questionable behavior, will vary with the circumstances.
Verbal and physical threats must be addressed directly and handled by the right individual. When a worker’s behavior appears odd, different approaches might be called for. For example, a fellow worker, especially one who is a friend of the worker exhibiting the strange behavior, might be the appropriate person to talk to the worker.
The next person to talk to the worker might be the supervisor. In fact, the supervisor should pay attention to the mannerism and actions of the workers under his or her supervision.
All companies should use a violence prevention program. The programs should include a system for documenting incidents, procedures to be taken in the event of incidents, and open communication between employers and workers.