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Workplace Violence

Workplace violence affects an estimated two million workers every year. Workplace violence can take many forms including verbal abuse, physical attacks, and even homicide. In some industries like healthcare, it is the third leading cause of death. While some workers are at a higher risk than others for workplace violence, it can happen anywhere.

Risk of Violence

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are certain factors that raise an employee’s risk of experiencing workplace violence. These include:

  • Performing work that involves contact with the public
  • Performing work that involves the exchange of money
  • Working alone or in small numbers
  • Working late night or early morning hours
  • Guarding valuables
  • Having a mobile workplace or delivering goods, services, or passengers
  • Working in community-based settings such as group homes

Occupations that encompass many of these factors and are considered high risk for workplace violence include:

  • Jobs in healthcare and social services
  • Work within correctional facilities including jails, prisons, and detention centers
  • Late night retail such as convenience stores, gas stations, and liquor stores
  • Taxi driving and other types of delivery service

Workplace Offenders

Workplace violence can be divided into four categories of perpetrators:

  • Criminals who commit a violent act with the intent to commit a crime.
  • Customers—including patients, students, inmates and others being provided a service—who direct violence at employees.
  • Co-workers—including current or former employees—who direct an act of violence against other employees, supervisors, or managers.
  • Personal acquaintances of someone in the workplace who are not employees themselves, but who target someone they know and sometimes others with a violent act.

Preventing Workplace Violence

There are many steps employers can take to minimize the risk of workplace violence and improve security. OSHA safeguards against workplace violence include:

  • Maintaining a zero-tolerance policy on workplace violence.
  • Employee training on recognizing the warning signs of violence in current or former employees.
  • Employee training on how to respond to threatening situations.
  • Installing surveillance camera systems, alarm systems and extra lighting.
  • Securing access from outsiders with an identification badge system and guards.
  • Making sure that employees do not travel alone to unsafe areas and providing escorts.
  • Establishing a workplace emergency action plan for violent events.
  • Asking local law enforcement to provide training sessions for employees on workplace violence.
  • Keeping minimum amounts of cash on the premises

Recognizing Warning Signs of Violence

Experts say that it is rare that someone just snaps and commits an act of workplace violence out of the blue. It is more likely that an employee’s anger builds slowly over time and leads to a violent event. Along the way there may be warning signs. No one can predict if one or any of these signs is a sure indication that a person will turn to violence as a result, but managers and their teams should be on the lookout for any behavior where they may need to intervene. Signs of trouble may include:

  • Substance abuse
  • Paranoia
  • Unexplained absences or decline in job performance
  • Aggressive outbursts and verbal abuse towards co-workers or customers
  • Mood swings, depression, expression of suicidal thoughts
  • Excessive behavior like stalking, sending harassing emails or making harassing phone calls
  • Persistent complaints of unfair treatment and always being the victim

While no one can predict when and how a violent incident will occur, employers and employees should undertake a careful assessment of their workplace to identify the risk of violent incidents. With a zero-tolerance policy and strong prevention program, workplaces can be made safer for everyone.

Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers of Gross & Kenny, LLP Represent Victims of Workplace Violence

If you or someone you love has been the victim of workplace violence, contact a Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyer of Gross & Kenny, LLP. Call 267-589-0090 or complete our online form to schedule an initial consultation. Our offices are located in Philadelphia, allowing us to serve Pennsylvania and New Jersey.