Workplace violence is a growing concern for every industry in the U.S. Earlier this year, a former employee, who had just been sacked, opened fire at Henry Pratt Company in Illinois. The incident resulted in six fatalities, including the perpetrator. Six other employees of the plant were also injured.
While such major incidents receive significant media coverage, there are many other unreported incidents of workplace violence. Irrespective of how serious it is, an incident of workplace violence puts your employees at risk and disrupts the work environment. Moreover, you may incur significant financial losses due to decreased productivity and a higher turnover rate.
The reason many cases of workplace violence remain unreported is due to a lack of awareness. Therefore, it is crucial for employers and business owners to stay abreast with the latest workplace violence statistics. Before we discuss that, let us first understand what workplace violence actually means.
Understanding Workplace Violence
Simply put, workplace violence is any act or threat of physical assault, harassment, or intimidation that jeopardizes the safety of your workforce. Incidents such as bullying, verbal abuse, theft, sexual assault, and homicide fall under the purview of workplace violence.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) categorizes workplace violence into four types:
- Criminal Intent - When the perpetrator has no direct connection with the workplace; their sole purpose is to commit a crime. This type includes shoplifting, robbery, etc.
- Customer/Client - When a dissatisfied customer causes harm to your employees. This type of workplace violence is extremely common in healthcare facilities.
- Worker-on-Worker - When violence is inflicted on an employee by their coworker(s). This includes bullying, emotional abuse, humiliation, etc. Such incidents are often unreported by the victims due to fear of further abuse/assault.
- Personal Relationship - When the perpetrator is someone who is related to an employee. Such cases are often the result of domestic violence being dragged into the workplace.
Let us now take a look at the workplace violence statistics of 2019.
The Likelihood of Workplace Violence
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), nearly two million people in the U.S. are victims of workplace violence each year. In fact, work-related assaults resulted in 18,400 injuries and 458 fatalities in 2017. Certain industries, such as healthcare, transportation, and education are more susceptible to workplace violence.
A recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) revealed that one out of seven employees feels unsafe at work. The study also surveyed 1,416 HR professionals, who are SHRM members. In fact, 25% of HR professionals claimed that their organization had witnessed an incident of workplace violence in the previous year. These figures clearly indicate that incidents of workplace violence are becoming increasingly common.
According to the SHRM survey, 48% of HR professionals agree that their organization has witnessed workplace violence in the past. In a similar study by SHRM in 2012, only 36% of the respondents claimed to have seen workplace violence at some point. While this rise might be alarming for many organizations, there is a silver lining to it.
It is likely that today’s employers, HR professionals, and employees have become more aware of what falls under workplace violence. The #MeToo movement and growing emphasis on inclusivity have prompted organizations to classify certain types of behavior as problematic and unacceptable. This, in turn, has encouraged employees to come forward and report incidents of assault and abuse.
Healthcare Providers at Risk
Out of all the industries, healthcare is the most susceptible to workplace violence. According to OSHA, the number of serious violent injuries in healthcare is nearly equal to that of all other industries combined. This is largely because healthcare providers often deal with patients who have a criminal record or a history of violent behavior.
A recent survey by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) revealed that nearly half of its respondents had been physically assaulted at work. In addition, more than 60% of those attacked claimed that it happened in the previous year. 70% of emergency physicians also claimed that violence in emergency departments is increasing.
Image via ACEP
It is extremely crucial for healthcare facilities to take preventive measures and safeguard their employees and staff as well as patients.
The Threat to Taxi Drivers
Another section of workers that is particularly susceptible to workplace violence is taxi and for-hire drivers. In fact, according to OSHA, they are more than 20 times likely to be murdered on the job than other workers. Several factors such as driving in high-crime areas and working at night put taxi drivers at risk. Additionally, they often carry substantial amounts of cash, making them prime targets for robberies.
Taxi companies and law enforcement agencies should take adequate measures to protect drivers. Modern technology, such as GPS, security cameras, and radio communication can help monitor any acts of violence against them. Additionally, they should be encouraged to accept online payments instead of cash to reduce the likelihood of robberies.
According to the SHRM study, only 45% of employees claim to know about workplace violence prevention programs at their companies. Additionally, 90% of HR professionals say that their organizations use a screening procedure to identify potentially violent employees. Unfortunately, 30% of employees and 19% of HR professionals don’t feel confident about dealing with incidents of workplace violence.
Employers and business owners need to do more in order to make their employees feel safe at their workplace. In addition to increasing awareness, they should provide adequate training that enables employees to deal with hostile situations. They can also use a mass notification system to alert employees in case of any emergencies. It is equally important to create a nurturing work environment where employees don’t hesitate to report such incidents.
Another interesting insight from the SHRM study is the change in reaction to workplace violence. In 2012, 47% of HR professionals claimed that their organization had a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence. In 2019, the figure has dropped to 39%. This indicates that more organizations are likely to perceive such incidents in context to the circumstances.
The latest workplace violence statistics suggest that a large section of employees feel unsafe at work. Many of them have experienced or been witness to incidents of workplace violence. While the more catastrophic incidents are widely covered, various minor cases go unreported.
Moreover, many workers and HR professionals feel that they are not adequately equipped to deal with emergencies. Organizations should develop a proper procedure to identify present employees or potential recruits with a history of violence. On the bright side, it is likely that employees are feeling more confident to report incidents of violence against them.
What steps is your organization taking to control workplace violence? Share your views in the comments section below.