By Andrea Lebron - August 11, 2020
Updated 8/11/2020—The latest on workplace violence statistics 2020 is that many businesses continue to under-report non-fatal injuries and illnesses. This under-reporting creates a misleading picture of violence in the workplace and - due to not acknowledging the issue - results in businesses failing to adequately protect employees.
In this blog, we'll cover:
In the 2015 edition of “Injury Facts”, the National Safety Council raised concerns that non-fatal injuries and illnesses were being under-reported. The organization cited several Californian investigations that found discrepancies of up to 48% between the number of injuries reported and the number of worker's compensation claims, and a study in Washington State that found 90% of organizations surveyed were not complying with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reporting regulations.
Three years later, the Office of the Inspector General noted that one of the top management and performance challenges facing the U.S. Department of Labor was how the department could best use its resources to help protect workers' safety and health, but the challenge was exacerbated by the underreporting of injuries by employers. Without this information, the Office said, the department was unable to focus inspection and compliance efforts on the most hazardous workplaces.
OSHA has also raised concerns with regard to the latest workplace violence statistics. On its page dedicated to violence at work, the organization claims “Nearly 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year,” but fears “many more cases go unreported”. OSHA's fears may well be justified. The number of reported non-fatal injuries and illnesses has failed to increase in subsequent years, implying that the practice of under-reporting continues to this day.
When considering statistics on workplace violence, it's important to note the statistics understate the problem because of under-reporting. There are various reasons why violence at work is under-reported. The Washington State study mentioned above concluded businesses fail to report non-fatal injuries and illnesses due to a lack of awareness, a lack of communication, and a lack of incentive. Due to the time it takes to complete Survey of Occupational Injury and Illness (SOII) reports, many businesses use whatever data is available at the time rather than implement an accurate data collection and reporting process.
However, around the same time as the National Safety Council was raising its concerns about under-reporting, Carol Fredrickson - a specialist in workplace conflict resolution - published her “7 Reasons Employees Don't Report Workplace Violence”. The list relates exclusively to employee-on-employee violence, but concludes with a point exceptionally pertinent to the latest workplace violence statistics - many employees and employers do not understand how violence at work is defined.
Below are the latest workplace violence statistics broken down by incident demographics, reasons, financial burdens, and a closer look at active shooter statistics in the workplace.
According to the Workplace Violence Research Institute, workplace violence has two definitions. The first, the Institute claims, is one perpetrated by the media in which a disgruntled customer or employee takes a firearm to a place of work and shoots indiscriminately. Although an exaggerated example, this definition may explain why many employees and employers feel violence at work only occurs when an injury is sustained due to a physical attack.
The second definition is one more closely aligned to that provided by OSHA. The Administration's website states: “Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide.” According to the latest workplace violence statistics released by the National Safety Council, physical assaults in the workplace resulted in 20,790 injuries and 453 fatalities in 2018.
In 2016, the New England Journal of Medicine published a comprehensive review of “Workplace Violence against Health Care Workers in the United States”. The review included data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing healthcare workers are nearly four times as likely to require time away from work as a result of violence as they are because of other types of injury (the most common being back injuries, needle stick injuries, exposure to blood and body fluid, and smoke inhalation).
The review also reported that, although employees in the healthcare and social assistance sectors account for 12.2% of the working population (and despite there being the potential for under-reporting in other industries), nearly 75% of workplace assaults occurred in a healthcare setting.
Among other recent workplace violence incidents:
Among workplace shootings 2018-2019, it is worth noting that only four of the hospital shootings were included in the FBI's “Active Shooter Study” published in 2018. This is because the majority took place on hospital grounds, while those that took place inside an Emergency Department or on a ward were the result of the shooter removing a firearm from a security guard or law enforcement officer. This is another example of how the latest workplace violence statistics can create a misleading picture of violence in the workplace.
There are various measures that can be implemented to prevent workplace violence cases. The first is for employers to understand the OSHA definition of violence at work and implement policies that protect employees from the “threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site”. Should these events occur, the policies must be enforced, sanctions applied, and the incidents included on the SOII reports.
In circumstances where employees are at risk from physical assault, employers should implement mechanisms that can quickly alert security personnel and emergency services to an act of violence. According to our “Trends in Corporate Security Report” approximately 25% of businesses are unprepared for an active shooter incident, meaning the incident is frequently over before police respond and arrive at the scene.
In our 2019-2020 Workplace Safety and Preparedness Report, 30% of respondents said they were unaware or unsure of their employers' Emergency Preparedness Plans for the most common types of workplace emergencies. Higher percentages reported that although Emergency Preparedness Plans existed for severe weather events, medical emergencies, and system outages/cyberattacks, the plans were rarely or never tested.
This doesn't necessarily imply employers are failing to prioritize workplace safety. It's more likely their efforts are being focused in the wrong areas due to regulations requiring events such as the periodic testing of fire alarms and fire drill procedures. However, it was particularly noted in the report that more than a third of female respondents were unaware of workplace violence emergency plans, despite workplace violence being the second leading cause of death for women in the workplace.
Each year, the National Safety Council release an “Injury Facts” report revealing the number of injuries and days lost due to workplace assaults. By analyzing the source data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it is possible to identify specific trends in workplace violence statistics - with the caveat that some trends may be attributable to the increased reporting of non-fatal injuries.
What these bare workplace fatality statistics don't reveal is the unequal distribution by gender. In 2017, homicides accounted for 22% of fatal injury events for women, but only 8% of fatal injury events for men. Of the 441 workplace homicides in 2017, co-workers were responsible for 77 deaths, customers for 51 deaths, and relatives for 28 deaths. The remainder were attributable to outside actors.
A deeper analysis of BLS data reveals:
While the increase in workplace violence rates is mostly attributable to the healthcare industry, the rate of days away from work per 10,000 employees has also increased in education (2008 to 2017):
Because California, Texas, Florida, and New York have larger working populations than other states, there are naturally more accidents in these states. However, this does not mean they are the most dangerous states to work in. Our analysis of BLS data sorted states by their relative sizes and the number of accidents in each to determine which the ten most dangerous states to work in actually are.
- The healthcare industry makes up 9% of the U.S. workforce, yet healthcare professionals experience more workplace violence injuries than all other industries combined
- Out of all 7 possible causes of death at the workplace, homicides make up 9%
- The third leading cause of death for workers in the healthcare and professional services industries (education, law and media) is due to workplace violence
- More on education: 44% of teachers reported being physically attacked while at school within one year
- Employees with potential to commit workplace violence tend to exhibit 8 behaviors such as acting out of character or exhibiting addictive habits
- The two most common traits when it comes to those who commit white-collar workplace violence are narcissism and psychopathy
- $3 or more is saved for each dollar invested in workplace safety
- $121 billion annual losses are attributed to workplace assaults
- Domestic violence issues that are brought to the workplace cost nearly $727 million in lost productivity
- Workplace catastrophes such as violent incidents have caused publicly-traded companies to lose close to 8% in shareholder value
- Lawsuits associated with workplace violence cost companies an average of $500,000 for out-of-court settlements
- Out of all mass shootings since 1966, 25% occurred at workplaces
- In 2018, there have been at least 18 mass shootings involving four or more victims, except for the suspect
- 70% of all active shooter incidents are within a commerce/business or educational setting
- 96% of active shooters are lone males
- 40% of active shooter assailants commit suicide
- Approximately 25% of companies are unprepared for active shooter incidents
- In 2014 and 2015, police exchanged gun-fire with the assailant in 14 active shooter incidents
- In nearly half of active shooter incidents, police are unable to respond under 10 minutes
- Active shooters are nearly twice as likely to die if the shooting occurs in a factory or warehouse, compared to commercial settings
- The FBI has found 10 key behaviors in active shooter assailants, including a mental health history and the decision to choose to attack familiar places
- Copycat active shooter events often happen in clusters, with the risk of an active shooter in the workplace at its highest in the two weeks following a similar incident
Bullying - either by a colleague or an employer - was acknowledged as an act of workplace violence by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in 1998. In the publication “Dealing with Workplace Violence” (PDF), the agency notes that not only can bullying be a form of intimidation, it can also be an indicator of potentially violent physical behavior.
An employer should have policies in place to protect employees who report workplace violence from retaliation. If an employer fails to protect an employee from retaliation - or is the perpetrator of the workplace violence - OSHA operates a whistleblower protection program and has previously taken employers to court for retaliating against employees.
Workplace violence doesn´t necessarily have to be physical or verbal. Online harassment via email, text, or chat apps is also considered to be workplace violence, even when the perpetrator does not communicate directly with the victim - for example spreading false gossip about an individual by mass email or social media.
Quid pro quo translates as “this for that”, and the term relates to any form of harassment in which something of value is offered in return for a “favor”. While a victim of quid pro quo can benefit from this type of workplace violence, the potential exists for the victim to be subsequently blackmailed to keep the something of value offered to them (i.e. a promotion).
While there is no data to suggest lone workers are more or less likely to be victims of workplace violence, it is certainly the case they are more vulnerable - especially during the early morning or late evening. Employers should conduct risk assessments and implement measures to reduce the likelihood of a lone worker becoming a victim of workplace violence.
While the length of time allowed for reporting workplace violence varies according to workplace policies, workplace violence that results in a fatality must be reported to OSHA within 8 hours, and inpatient hospitalizations within 24 hours. With regards to reporting retaliation to OSHA, the time limit is 30 days after the retaliatory event.
A workplace violence app is a mobile app that can be used by employees to anonymously report incidents to designated corporate safety leaders. Two-way messaging allows employees to submit reports along with text and images. Some workplace violence apps also have a virtual escort feature that provides additional security for employees on the clock who have to travel to different locations as part of their job.
Andrea is Rave's Director of Digital Marketing, a master brainstormer and avid coffee drinker. Andrea joined Rave in August 2017, after 10 years of proposal and corporate marketing at an environmental engineering firm. You'll find her working with her amazing team in writing and producing blogs like this one, improving your journey to and through our website, and serving you up the best email content. When she's not in front of a keyboard, she's chasing after her three daughters or indulging in her husband's latest recipe. Andrea has a Bachelor's degree in Marketing/Management from Northeastern University and an MBA from Curry College.
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