Work Related Violence
Work related violence is any incident in which people are abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work. It can be an explicit or implicit challenge to someone’s safety, well-being or health with the potential to cause harm. Three forms of workplace violence are:
- Non-physical violence (intimidation, abuse, threats, etc.)
- Physical violence (punching, kicking, pushing, etc.)
- Aggravated physical violence (use of weapons, e.g. guns, knives, syringes, pieces of furniture, bottles, glass, etc.)
Violence, in all its forms, is a concern for staff and management alike. For employers, violence can lead to poor morale and a poor image for the organization, resulting in difficulty recruiting and keeping staff. It can also mean extra costs, such as those associated with absenteeism, higher insurance premiums and legal fees, fines and even compensation payments where negligence is proven. For employees, violence can cause pain, distress, disability or even death. Physical attacks are obviously dangerous, but serious or persistent verbal abuse or threats can also damage employees’ health through anxiety or stress.
Types of Work Related Violence
Understanding the causes of the violence can help eliminate, reduce or manage the risk of it occurring. There are four main types of work related violence:
- Criminal violence – perpetrated by individuals who have no relationship with the organization or victim. Normally the aim is to access cash, stock, drugs, or perform some other criminal or unlawful act.
- Service user violence – perpetrated by individuals who are recipients of a service provided in the workplace or by the victim. This often arises through frustration with service delivery or some other by-product of the organization’s core business activities.
- Worker-on-worker violence – perpetrated by individuals working within the organization: colleagues, supervisors, managers, etc. This is often linked to protests against the company, grudges against specific members of staff, or in response to disciplinary action that the individual perceives as being unjust.
- Domestic violence – perpetrated by an individual, outside of the organization, who has a relationship with an employee (such as a partner, spouse or acquaintance). Violence is often perpetrated within the work setting simply because the offender knows where a given individual is during the course of a working day.
Reducing Workplace Violence
Employee assistance programs offer assistance in reducing workplace violence. EAPs, through counseling and consultation, aid in increasing employee productivity, efficiency and morale in the workplace, which can decrease employee turnover and absenteeism. An EAP can also provide a program for diffusing workplace anger and violence. The elements of such programs are:
An employee of an organization asks for assistance and the EAP staff attempts to diagnose the problem.
Counseling or therapy is provided. If the EAP is unable to assist the employee, the employee may be referred to the appropriate professional outside of the organization.
An EAP can provide periodic screening and examinations of employees, especially of those in highly stressful positions, to detect warning signs of violence or aggression.
An EAP can assist employers with education and communication to employees with high risk levels about alternative solutions to dealing and coping with stress.
Important Facts About Workplace Violence
Workplace violence has been increasing. A 2000 study conducted by Northwestern National Life Insurance found 2,500 of every 100,000 American workers have been attacked on the job, with the 30 percent of assaults made by coworkers, supervisors or ex-employees. Most experts agree, however, that these statistics do not adequately convey the scale of the problem because most incidents of workplace violence and aggression are never reported.
Homicide has surpassed machine-related injuries as the second most prevalent cause of death on the job, after motor vehicle accidents. Homicide is the leading cause of injury death for women in the workplace. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 15 people are murdered at work on average each week in the U.S.
According to the Workplace Violence Research Institute, workplace aggression takes a heavy financial toll on businesses. One study estimated the total cost of workplace violence to U.S. employers at $36 billion. Expenses associated include lost business and productivity, litigation, medical care, psychiatric care, higher insurance rates, increased security measures, negative publicity and loss of employees.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that the highest risk industries for workplace violence include transportation, health care, community services and retail settings. And nearly 60 times the national average rate of workplace homicide occurs in the taxicab industry.
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