Workplace violence has emerged as an
important safety and health issue in today's workplace. It's most extreme form,
homicide, is the second leading cause of fatal occupational injury in the United
States. Nearly 1,000 workers are murdered, and 1.5 million are assaulted in the
workplace each year.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, there were 709 workplace homicides in
1998, accounting for 12% of the total 6,026 fatal work injuries in the United
States. Environmental conditions
associated with workplace assaults have been identified and control strategies
implemented in a number of work settings. OSHA has developed guidelines
and recommendations to reduce worker exposures to this hazard but is not
initiating rule making at this time.
According to the Department of Justice's National Crime Victimization Survey
(NCVS), assaults and threats of violence against Americans at work number almost
2 million a year.
The most common type of workplace violent crime was simple assault with an
average of 1.5 million a year. There were 396,000 aggravated assaults, 51,000
rapes and sexual assaults, 84,000 robberies, and 1,000 homicides.
Again, according to the NCVS, retail sales workers were the most numerous
victims, with 330,000 being attacked each year. They were followed by police,
with an average of 234,200 officers victimized. The risk rate for various
occupations was as follows: (per 1,000)
|Private security guards||218|
|Mental health professionals||80|
|Gas station attendants||79
|Convenience, liquor store clerks||68
|Mental health custodial workers||63
|Junior high/middle school teachers||57
|Special education teachers||41|
|High school teachers||29
|Elementary school teachers||16
Workplace homicides fell to their lowest level in the past six years in 1997,
but continued as the second leading cause of job-related deaths. Robbery
continued to be the primary motive of job-related homicide, accounting for 85%
of the deaths. Disputes among coworkers and with customers and clients accounted
for about one-tenth of the total.
Sales workers experienced the highest number of workplace homicides-an
average of 327 each year from 1993 to 1996. Annually, 74 taxi drivers and
chauffeurs were murdered while working or on duty. About 70 law enforcement
officers were killed in the line of duty each year.
Although it does not have the highest number of homicides, the taxicab
industry has the highest risk at 41.4 per 100,000 persons. Job-related homicides
in retail trade account for almost half of all workplace homicides.
Factors that may increase a worker's risk for workplace assault, as
identified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH),
OSHA does not have a specific standard for workplace violence. However, under
the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 the extent of an employer's
obligation to address workplace violence is governed by the General Duty Clause.
Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act, or P.L. 91-596 (the "General Duty
Clause") provides that: "Each 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." 29 U.S.C. 654(a)(1)
Therefore, OSHA encourages employers to develop workplace violence prevention
OSHA’s response to the problem of workplace violence in certain industries
has been the production of guidelines and recommendations to those industries
for implementing workplace violence prevention programs. In 1996, OSHA published
Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Health Care and Social Service
Workers. In 1998, OSHA published Recommendations for Workplace Violence
Prevention Programs in Late-Night Retail Establishments. The guidelines and
recommendations are based on OSHA's Safety and Health Program Management
Guidelines and contain four basic elements:
Management commitment and employee involvement. May include simply clear
goals for worker security in smaller sites or a written program for larger
Although not exhaustive, OSHA's guidelines and recommendations include
policies, procedures, and corrective methods to help prevent and mitigate the
effects of workplace violence. Engineering controls remove the hazard from the
workplace or create a barrier between the worker and the hazard. Administrative
and work practice controls affect the way jobs or tasks are performed.
Some Recommended Engineering and
Alarm systems, panic buttons
Post-incident Response and Evaluation
Post-incident response and evaluation are essential to an effective violence
prevention program. All workplace violence programs should provide treatment for
victimized employees and employees who may be traumatized by witnessing a
workplace violence incident. Several types of assistance can be incorporated
into the post-incident response including:
The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries adopted requirements
for crime prevention in late night retail establishments in 1990. As part of the
state's accident prevention program requirements, late night retail
establishments must implement crime prevention measures such as crime prevention
training for employees, and implementation of some environmental design features
and administrative controls (i.e., window and door displays configured to
provide clear view inside, adequate outside lighting, drop safe or comparable
The New Jersey Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health Program
adopted guidelines to assist public employees in health care facilities in
adopting measures and procedures that will help protect the safety of employees
from violent and aggressive behavior.
In 1995, CAL/OSHA issued revised guidelines for workplace security designed to provide information and guidance about workplace security issues to employers and workers in the state. CAL/OSHA recommends that employers establish, implement, and maintain an effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program to address the hazards known to be associated with workplace violence, and provide a model program to assist employers and workers.