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The High Risk of Workplace Violence

On the list of concerns about our jobs are usually items such as performance reviews, salary or promotion increases, lay-offs, personality issues with your supervisor. And yet, despite a growing number of high-profile news stories on the subject, few of us actually worry about workplace violence. Understandably so, as we tend to think of these incidents in terms of the rarer, exceptionally violent events performed by disturbed individuals. But workplace violence occurs more often than you are likely aware.

According to a study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between the years of 1993 and 1999, each of those years saw approximately 1.7 million people become the victims of a violent crime while on the job. Of those crimes, 75% of the victims experienced a simple assault, while another 19% experienced an aggravated assault. U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) warns that of all the causes of fatal occupational injury in the United States, the fourth leading cause is homicide. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries noted that in 2009, of the 4,340 fatal work injuries recorded that year, 521 (12%) were due to an on-the-job homicide.

These statistics are eye-opening. Even discounting the high number of actual homicides, incidents which many of us hear about but consider unlikely, it is impossible to ignore the shockingly high number of workplace assaults occurring annually. While certainly these numbers account for some inherently risky jobs such as police and security officers, exceptionally high risk positions include areas such as taxi cab drivers and retail workers. More surprising may be the high incidence of violence incurred by health care workers and educators. In short, these numbers remind us that everyone, regardless of profession, must be diligent in ensuring our own safety at work.

Of benefit to employers may be following safety guidelines provided by OSHA and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. A few improvements can include: improve cash-handling techniques such as limiting employee access to large funds; install physical barriers between workers and non-employees (locked entrances/exits, inaccessible counters with shatter-proof glass, etc); increase lighting of business and parking lot areas; use security monitoring via alarms, cameras or guards; and adequately staff to ensure workers are not isolated and at risk. Employers must also address the potential for employee-on-employee violence. First, employers can practice better screening techniques of potential new-hires through criminal background checks and reference checks of previous employers. Employers should also adopt a zero-tolerance policy for any violent or threatening behavior, with an official procedure in place for the reporting and handling of any incidents or of employee concerns.

Employees can help themselves by always reporting any issue which gives them cause for concern, such as risky situations, or questionable or threatening behavior by staff and non-staff. Employees should also be aware that should they receive an injury due to workplace violence, they may be eligible for workers compensation. If you’ve been the victim of workplace violence, contact a Chicago workers compensation attorney who can assist you.

About the Author: Brooke Haley marketing associate at Millon & Peskin, Chicago workers compensation lawyer that practice in the areas of Civil Litigation, Workers’ Compensation, and Personal Injury. Millon & Peskin is a General Civil Litigation Practice with the goal of representing the interests of injured workers, throughout all applicable Courts within the State of Illinois. For more information, please visit http://www.millonpeskin.com.

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