By Fred Hetner
The U.S. Department of Labor in 2010, reported that homicide was the fourth leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States. The statistics hit home especially for women. The Labor Department reported that homicide was the leading cause of death in the workplace.
The Labor Department defines workplace violence as any act of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. The Labor Department says that it ranges from threats and verbal abuse to assaults and even homicides. Almost 2 million people are victims of workplace violence each year in the U.S. and that does not include those who never report it. The Labor Department reports that workplace violence can occur at anytime and anyplace and no one is immune.
Research has identified factors that can increase the risk of workplace violence for some workers, such as those who are exchanging money with the public, working with volatile, unstable people, working alone or are isolated, working where alcohol is served, working late at night or in high crime areas.
The Labor Department has identified some of the high risk workers as delivery persons, health care professionals, public service workers, customer service agents, people who work alone or in small groups.
Most workplaces can reduce the risk of workplace violence starting with a “zero tolerance policy” towards workplace violence. Employers need to be aware of some of the warning signs and security awareness training for employees is essential. One of the most obvious warning signs is after an adverse employment action, especially a firing. It is good to be on guard after a firing, especially if the employee has been acting volatile or has shown signs of erratic behavior.
Workplace violence programs cannot be expected to prevent all events, but it is critical for employees to know the policy and be aware of danger signals and receive the proper training on avoidance and escape measures.
The FBI reported that in 2011, 21% of workplace homicides were committed by work associates and overall, shootings accounted for 80% of workplace homicides.
After a workplace violence event, employers need to offer employees some mental health counseling. for support and comfort. (Related article: After Workplace Violence Incident, Mental Health Resources a Must)