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In harm's way: workplace violence on the rise.

The next time you chat up your local cabdriver, liquor store owner, grocery store clerk, or gas station attendant, take note: These people are dying to make a living. Literally.

Approximately 20 of these workers are murdered each week on the job. That's more than 1,000 each year. About 1 million other workers are assaulted, according to a report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Even more disturbing, the report found that workplace homicides increased in the 1990s after decreasing substantially in the 1980s.

The taxicab industry has the highest risk of workplace homicides-nearly 60 times the national average. Others at high risk include retail trade workers, police and security officers, and chautbeurs. Homicide is also the leading cause of death in the finance, insurance, and real estate industries. Workers in health care, community services, and retail settings are at greatest risk of nonfatal assaults.

The NIOSH study found that workers are most at risk if their jobs involve routine contact with the public or an exchange of money. Workers also increase their risk if they work alone or in small numbers, work very late or very early hours, or work in high-crime areas. Only a small number of murders or assaults in the workplace are committed by coworkers.

"We as a society cannot afford to tolerate violence against working men and women," said Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala. "As we pursue the fundamental efforts needed to reduce the level of violence in society in general, we also must take strategic steps to protect Americans from violence on the job."

By geographic region, the South and West have experienced the largest number of homicides and the highest rates per 100,000 workers, according to the job."

Although homicide is the leading cause of workplace injury deaths among women, the majority of workplace homicide victims are men, and the risk of workplace homicide is three times higher for men than for women. Nonfatal workplace assaults occur among men and women at almost equal rates.

Workers 65 years of age and older are more likely to be murdered than younger workers. This may be due to a number of factors including a decreased ability to survive injury or the perception that these workers are "softer" targets.

The circumstances of workplace homicides differ markedly from those portrayed by the news media and from homicides in the general population, the study reports. For the most part, workplace homicides are not carried out by disgruntled workers or intimate partners and other relatives who kill loved ones.

Rather, some 75 percent of all workplace homicides in 1993-the last year studied--were robbery-related, compared with 9 percent in the general population. And only 19 percent were committed in conjunction with any kind of felony, such as robbery, rape, or arson. Although 47 percent of all murder victims in 1993 were related to or acquainted with their assailants, the majority of workplace homicides are believed to have been carried out by strangers.

The study suggests that some distinctions between fatal and nonfatal workplace assaults can be attributed to differences between violence relating to robberies and violence resulting from the anger or frustration of customers, clients, or coworkers.

Robbery-related violence is more likely to result in a fatality. The premeditated use of firearms in robberies is likely to influence the lethality of workplace assaults, the study suggests.

The report expands and updates previous NIOSH studies by including data for the early 1990s and examines trends for a longer period. It recommends that all workers and employers assess the risk of violence in their workplaces and develop appropriate prevention programs and policies.

Preventive measures may include prudent cash-handling policies such as the use of locked drop safes, physical separation of workers from customers, improved lighting, security systems, and employee training.

For a copy of the report and recommendations for reducing workplace violence, call (800) 35-NIOSH or visit the NIOSH home page on the Internet at http://www.
COPYRIGHT 1996 American Association for Justice
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:McMurry, Kelly
Date:Sep 1, 1996
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