What Constitutes Workplace Violence and How to Prevent It

What Constitutes Workplace Violence and How to Prevent It

by / Monday, 17 January 2022 / Published in Workplace Woes
A woman cowers as a man yells at her.

When we talk about workplace injuries, we’re often talking about injuries caused by things like falls, exposure to unsafe conditions, and being struck by equipment. But there is another significant cause of injuries which deserves to be talked about as well: violence in the workplace.

What is Occupational Violence?

OSHA defines occupational violence as, “any act or threat of physical violence, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers, and visitors.” 

Who is at Risk for Occupational Violence?

For people with certain occupations, the risk of occupational violence has long been a serious safety issue. Healthcare and social service workers have the highest rate of reported occupational violence. Retail is also often cited as being one of the most dangerous types of occupations because of the risk of things like robberies and customer altercations. 

According to OSHA, other people with an increased risk of violence on the job include workers who exchange money with the public, delivery drivers, customer service agents, and law enforcement professionals. 

Occupational Violence Among Healthcare & Social Workers

Healthcare and social workers face several different factors that put them at a particularly high risk of experiencing violence on the job. In hospitals and other healthcare facilities, there often aren’t policies about training employees about spotting and handling hostile behaviors from patients and visitors. High turnover rates, understaffing at busy times, and inadequate security can also increase the risk of assault. For healthcare workers and social workers who visit patient/client homes, they often work alone and work in areas with high crime rates. They also often don’t receive adequate safety training or equipment. 

Preventing Occupational Violence

Even though occupational violence occurs without warning, that doesn’t mean it can’t be prevented. While employers have limited ability to control the actions of patients, customers, and clients, they can start by focusing on the things they can control. For example, since occupational violence can be caused by fellow employees, it’s a good idea to run background checks on new employees to see if they have a history of violent behavior. Or in the case of retail stores or food delivery drivers, there could be a policy about keeping a very limited amount of cash on hand, with that limit visibly posted, to deter robbers.

Employees can also be trained to watch for signs of potentially violent situations and how to respond to them. Policies could also be developed to prevent people from working by themselves as much as possible and that allow people to refuse to enter a situation that makes them feel unsafe. Tools like cell phones and portable alarms could be provided for people to use if they need help. People should also feel safe to report potentially dangerous situations to supervisors and managers. 

If there have been cases of assault at a place of employment, could that be used to shape new policies to prevent them from happening again?

Contact a Michigan Workplace Injury Lawyer

If you’ve been injured on the job, whether through a violent attack or through another type of accident, don’t hesitate to contact a workplace injury lawyer to make sure all of your rights are being protected. At Goodwin & Scieszka, we’ve helped many people in the state of Michigan who have been injured on the job and are ready to answer your questions. Contact us today to get started.

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