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Workplace Violence

What is Workplace Violence?

Any physical assault, threatening behavior, or verbal abuse occurring in the workplace. The workplace may be any location either permanent or temporary where an employee performs any work-related duty. This includes, but is not limited to, the buildings and the surrounding perimeters, including the parking lots, field locations, clients’ homes and traveling to and from work assignments.

Types of Workplace Violence.

Generally, workplace violence is broken down into 5 categories:

  • Violence against bystanders at a robbery or other commercial crime.
  • Violence against law-enforcement and security officers.
  • Domestic and misdirected affection cases.
  • Employer-directed situations (targets may be supervisors, managers, co-workers).
  • Terrorism and hate crimes.

The mechanics of these acts include but are not limited to: Physical assaults; Beatings/stabbings; Shootings; Rapes; Attempting to cause physical harm, (i.e., striking, pushing, or other aggressive acts against another person); and verbal threats of harm either actual or implied.

How big is the Problem?

The most common form of workplace violence is simple assault, with over 1.5 million cases reported each year. This is followed by an estimated 396,000 aggravated assaults and 51,000 sexual assaults each year. Homicides account for nearly 1,000 workplace deaths each year.

The Department of Justice, estimates that workplace violence will impact over 500,000 employees and result in 1,175,100 lost workdays each year. Further, the resulting lost wages will cost employers $60 million. The un-measurable factors of lost productivity, legal expenses, and property damage may push actual costs to the employer into the billions of dollars.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics almost two thirds of the non-fatal assaults occurred in service industries, such as nursing homes, hospitals, and residential/social care facilities; while retail establishments account for fifty percent of the homicides.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), has developed guidelines to assist employers in dealing with the threat of workplace violence. These guidelines, while not a new standard, are a recommendation for preventive actions employers should take. From an enforcement standpoint, the OSH Act of 1970, in section 5(a)(1) holds that the employer “shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;” which references all hazards including workplace violence.

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