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Violence in the Workplace: It Can Strike Anywhere! Are You Prepared?

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Did you know homicide is the fourth leading cause of a workplace death? Workplace violence is a serious occupational hazard, and it has ranked in the top four causes of death in the workplace for the past 15 years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), of the 4679 fatal workplace injuries that occurred in the United States in 2014, 403 were workplace homicides.

Workplace violence is defined as violence or the threat of violence against workers, and nearly two million American workers report having been victims each year. It can occur at or outside the workplace and can be any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening disruptive behavior. Workplace violence can strike anywhere. Some occupations are at a higher risk, including workers who exchange money with the public, deliver passengers, goods or services, or work alone or in small groups during late nights or early mornings in high crime areas, but no one is immune.

Too often in today’s headlines, we hear stories of workplace and school shootings or the late night Uber rides that end up as tragedies, and we are left wondering what can be done. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s (OSH Act) General Duty Clause, employers are required to provide a safe and healthful workplace for their workers. This might be easier to accomplish when thinking about safely working equipment, being provided with safety gear such as gloves and hats or even being protected from toxic chemicals, but protection against workplace violence?

Well, there are steps that can be taken. First and foremost, the best protection employers can offer is to establish a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence against or by their employees as well as having a workplace violence prevention program. Workplace violence policies should be included into accident prevention programs, employee handbooks or the manual of standard operating procedures, and they should cover what conduct is unacceptable, what to do if they witness or are subjected to workplace violence, and how to protect themselves.

OSHA offers a fact sheet that covers how employers can help protect their employees, including securing the workplace and providing drop safes. Nothing can guarantee an employee will not become a victim of workplace violence, but the fact sheet covers some steps to hopefully reduce the odds, including learning how to recognize potentially violent situations and alerting supervisors of any concerns.

April is Workplace Violence Awareness Month, and Workplace Safety and Health Co. is ready to help your employees become more aware of the potential impacts of violence in the workplace and better equip themselves to help prevent, mitigate and respond to such incidents. Call us to learn about our workplace violence training program – 317-253-9737. We look forward to hearing from you.

Tagged in: workplace violence
Mr. Griffith has a received his bachelors degree in Environmental Health from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. He is a Certified Industrial Hygienist and president of Workplace Safety & Health Company. He has over 35 years of industrial hygiene, safety, loss control and consulting experience. Chemical monitoring, noise measurement, program development and management, risk assessment and computer management of health and safety data are areas of particular strength. Mr. Griffith is a member of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) at the local and national level. He is also active in the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).

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