Workplace violence involves threats, acts of harassment, intimidation, dangerous and disruptive behavior or physical violence while at the workplace. Per the Workplace Violence Research Institute, workplace violence can be defined in two ways.
The first would be when a customer or employee brings a firearm on-site and shoots indiscriminately. Though this is not the only example of workplace violence, it is the one most commonly perpetrated by the media and is a large reason why employers and their employees may believe workplace violence only involves injuries from physical attacks.
The second is a more broad definition and closely matches the definition from OSHA, “Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the worksite. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide.”
Other examples include physical assault, robbery or destruction of property.
Workplace violence risk factors and demographics
Businesses may have a higher risk of workplace violence depending on their risk factors and the nature of the business — for example, exchanging money with the public, working with unstable or known-to-be violent people, late shifts and businesses located in areas with higher crime rates.
Workplace violence has increased from just over 10,000 reported incidents in 2011 to nearly 25,000 in 2019. The most common intentional non-fatal injuries include hitting, kicking, beating and shoving. The most common intentional fatal injuries include intentional shooting by another person.
Women are at a higher risk of workplace violence. In 2017, homicides accounted for 22% of fatal injuries at the workplace, but only 8% for men. That same year, out of the 441 homicides were reported, co-workers were responsible for 17.5% of those deaths, customers 11% and relatives just over 6%.
The most dangerous profession
Though possible in any industry, workplace violence occurs more often in the healthcare industry. 75% of workplace assaults that occur annually happen in healthcare facilities or hospitals, and the types of injuries sustained are severe — back injuries, needle stick injuries, exposure to blood and body fluid or smoke inhalation.
Unfortunately, that is not the extent of these statistics. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- 80% of Emergency Medical Services personnel have been attacked by patients.
- Homicide is the second leading cause of workplace death in the home healthcare industry.
- 78% of Emergency Department physicians and 100% of Emergency Department nurses have experienced patient violence every year.
- The likelihood that physical assault will happen in a psychiatric setting is 70%.
- 59% of nurses reported being assaulted by patients weekly and 16% daily at nursing homes that care for dementia patients.
- Nearly 50% of nurses surveyed reported workplace violence during their five most recent shifts.
According to the FBI’s “Active Shooter Study“ from 2018, only four hospital shootings were included. The majority occurred on hospital grounds, while those inside emergency departments happened because the shooter had removed a firearm from security or law enforcement.
This can be seen as a direct example of how statistics may create a misleading picture of violence in the workplace, especially in the healthcare industry. Nurses and other hospital staff are looking to their healthcare organizations to provide better protection.
What the statistics don’t tell us about workplace violence
Underreporting is a major issue when considering workplace violence for many reasons. Businesses most often fail to report non-fatal injuries because they lack awareness, communication, or incentive.
On top of that, filling out Survey of Occupational Injury and Illness (SOII) reports can be time-consuming, and in an effort to get things done, one can report without conducting full investigations to get the entire scope of the situation.
Many employees often fear retaliation or punishment if they report an incident of workplace violence. Often, perpetrators had acted violently before and likely acted the same way towards others, and employees do not want to bring harm to another person by reporting.
Some employees and employers are simply unaware of how workplace violence is defined, either because of outdated definitions that have yet to be dismantled or insufficient workplace training. This leads many to miss opportunities to report and collect accurate information.
Preventing a dangerous working environment
There are several ways that employers can protect their employees from workplace violence. Providing a safe workplace is not only a corporation’s moral duty but a legal obligation. OSHA laws state that employees must have a work environment that does not risk serious injury, harm, or death.
Businesses must do everything in their power to abide by these laws and protect the well-being of their employees.
Provide training for better situational awareness
A large majority of incidents are underreported because supervisors and employees are not certain about what can be defined as workplace violence. Policies that clearly define what workplace violence is, educate on discrimination, harassment, drug and alcohol use and other safety concerns, along with a zero-tolerance policy, are non-negotiable.
All levels of a business should be aware of these policies and procedures — management, employees, contractors or freelance employees, and those in leadership positions.
Improve physical safety measures
Adequate safety precautions such as proper lighting to ensure areas are well-lit for late workers, security guards to patrol the premises and security cameras may help employers prevent acts of violence.
Employers should implement a system that quickly alerts security personnel and emergency services to assaults and other acts of violence in addition to a communications tool that allows anonymous alerting. These will increase the likelihood of employees reporting workplace violence.
Limit access to the workplace
While co-workers account for 17.5% of homicides in the workplace, strangers account for nearly 66% of them. Employers should limit access for strangers both in and around the workplace to prevent violent situations.
Communicate clearly and provide plan of action
Communication is perhaps one of the most vital components of preventing and mitigating workplace violence. Managers and leadership must ensure that safety plans from HR are being actively enacted. These safety plans should also be tested frequently to ensure their efficacy.
How a critical communications tool can help employees feel safer at work
Clear and consistent communication with employees is necessary to ensure that they understand how to handle workplace violence. With the help of a comprehensive mass communication tool, leaders can reach employees instantly and equip them with accurate information.
Administrators on Rave Mobile Safety’s platform can reach employees via multimodal communication such as text messaging, voice calls, desktop alerts, or digital signage. Multimodal communication ensures staff receive notifications about emergencies and that no one is missed, even when they do not have access to a computer or email.
Empower your employees about their safety through discreet and anonymous tips and messaging. Employees can report on incidents in the workplace without fear of retaliation.
It is a business’s responsibility to provide a safe working environment. Keep your employees safe by informing and equipping them with accurate, up-to-date information and by giving them timely alerts.
To learn more about protecting your workplace with a critical communications solution, visit: www.ravemobilesafety.com/solutions/.