Turn on the national news or check for news updates on a smartphone or other device, and chances are you’ll see a lead story on workplace violence. The sad fact is that workplace violence is a real threat, and it’s increasing in number and intensity every year. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are two million victims of workplace violence each year.
Unfortunately, violence in the workplace has escalated into mass shootings, with many workers dying from attacks by current and former employees. In 2021, a mass shooting in Indianapolis killed 8 people at a FedEx facility. In 2020, a worker at a brewery in Milwaukee killed 5 co-workers before taking his own life. The previous year a disgruntled ex-employee killed 5 workers at a factory in suburban Chicago, and the worst shooting occurred in 2018 in Virginia Beach when a public utility worker killed 12 people before being killed by the police. The list goes on and on, and despite efforts to curtail the shootings, it seems that they continue to occur.
A Closer Look at Workplace Violence
While the mass shootings get the headlines, many thousands of people are injured, some seriously, due to workplace violence. According to the National Safety Council, workplace violence is broken down into 4 categories: criminal violence, worker-on-worker violence, customer-client violence, and violence due to personal relationships. Sadly, most of the victims are women.
Workplace violence can affect people of all ages, genders, and locations. What makes the workplace a potentially violent environment is the offender who is often unstable or out to seek revenge for a perceived wrong. It might be because the worker was fired, or bullied by coworkers or he or she was passed over for a promotion. Whatever the trigger, the result is often the same – serious injury or death.
The person committing the violence usually has a specific grievance or a grudge, and the victims, particularly of mass shootings, are often innocent bystanders. They were often found to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, even though the perpetrator had specific victims in mind.
High-Stress Jobs and Violence
There is a strong correlation between workplace violence and the type of jobs people do. High-stress jobs are more likely to have more workplace violence. So, what are some of the high-stress professions?
Law enforcement is at the top. Surprisingly, though, it’s not only violence from making arrests or confronting criminals. Police officers, correction officers, and judges face retaliation from the people they encounter on their jobs. Many in law enforcement voice the same concern: their privacy is key to keeping them safe. If a judge or prosecutor sends a person to prison, they have to consider whether that person will seek retaliation once they are released. That’s why privacy is paramount for these workers.
Another high-stress job category is medical workers, where violence against nurses and doctors is escalating. You have to remember that the patient population that confronts healthcare workers is often intoxicated, high on street drugs, in agonizing pain, or experiencing delusional episodes. According to OSHA, this leads to hitting, punching, and spitting at emergency room nurses and physicians, all on top of severe verbal abuse.
It’s not only the patients who are causing the violent outbursts. It can also be from family members of patients who find themselves in extreme distress. This leads to increased violent acts against the people caring for their loved ones.
Social workers are also a job category who experience violence. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that social workers were 5 times more likely to experience violence in the workplace than non-social workers. But the problem isn’t only a violent act when interacting with a client. The bigger problem is that many of the clients can easily pull up private information about the worker, including home address, family member’s names, and ages, and more.
Job categories that are subject to violence run the gamut from social media influencers to high-profile CEOs. The sad fact is, nobody is immune to workplace violence.
Ways to Avoid Workplace Violence
The first step in preventing workplace violence is training and making everyone aware of the fact that it exists. Another key step in the prevention process is to minimize access to private information that is easily found on the Internet – particularly people’s search sites. At-risk employees should remove any unauthorized information from every people search site so that bad actors can’t gain access to private information.
The problem is that there are over 100 people search sites like TruthFinder, US Search, and Instant Checkmate. Even if you could find the top 50 sites, there are over 50 more that most people never heard of. And once you find them, each one has its own unique opt-out process that is extremely time-consuming.
Other steps include always documenting any actual or perceived threats from co-workers, customers, or others involved in your daily work routine. This will help to facilitate an intervention or pursue legal remedies if needed. Communicate with others if you feel threatened or at risk, as it helps to diffuse any potentially problematic situations.
Also, OneRep has put together a guide to avoiding workplace violence that contains different tactics to avoid violence before it escalates. By following these strategies and guidelines you will help keep away from workplace violence in 2021.