Every year, 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence. In 2014, 409 people were fatally injured in work-related attacks, according to the
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's about 16% of the 4,821 workplace deaths that year.
While roadway incidents are the No. 1 cause of death for workers overall, violence is the third leading cause for
healthcare workers, and employees in professional and business services like education, law and media, according to
Injury Facts 2016®.
Taxi drivers, for example, are more than 20 times more likely to be murdered on the job than other workers, according to OSHA.
But make no mistake: Workplace violence can happen anywhere.
The Numbers are Alarming
According to the
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, workplace violence falls into four categories: Criminal intent, customer/client, worker-on-worker and personal relationship, which overwhelmingly targets women.
Injury Facts 2016 lists data for workplace violence-related deaths, and injuries resulting in days off of work, across various occupations. Here are some statistics for 2013:
- Government: 37,110 injuries, 128 deaths
- Education and health services: 22,590 injuries, 35 deaths
- Professional and Business Services: 4,460 injuries, 65 deaths
- Retail: 2,680 injuries, 127 deaths
- Leisure and hospitality: 2,380 injuries, 107 deaths
- Financial activities: 1,100 injuries, 37 deaths
- Transportation and warehousing: 840 injuries, 71 deaths
- Construction: 680 injuries, 36 deaths
- Manufacturing: 570 injuries, 36 deaths
No matter who initiaties the confrontation, the deadliest situations involve an active shooter.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines active shooter as someone "actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area."
A lot can happen in the chaotic minutes before police arrive;
DHS advises staying calm and exercising one of three options: Run, hide or fight.
- If there is an accessible escape route, leave your belongings and get out
- If evacuation is not possible, find a hiding place where you won't be trapped should the shooter find you, lock and blockade the door, and silence your phone
- As a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to incapacitate the shooter by throwing items, improvising weapons and yelling
Every Organization Needs to Address Workplace Violence
Managers and safety professionals at every workplace should develop a policy on violence that includes:
- Creating an emergency action plan
- Conducting mock training exercises with local law enforcement
- Adopting a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence
Know the Warning Signs
Some people commit violence because of revenge, robbery or ideology – with or without a component of mental illness. While there is no way to predict an attack, you can be aware of behaviors in coworkers that might signal future violence:
- Excessive use of alcohol or drugs
- Unexplained absenteeism, change in behavior or decline in job performance
- Depression, withdrawal or suicidal comments
- Resistance to changes at work or persistent complaining about unfair treatment
- Violation of company policies
- Emotional responses to criticism, mood swings
Most every "place" is somebody's workplace. So whether you are a patron or an employee, it's important to be alert.