Written By: Dr. Jassin Jouria
A 29-year-old male is brought to the Emergency Room after being attacked while at work. The patient states a customer became upset with the store’s “No Return/Refund Policy” and proceeded to attack him without warning. The patient said the customer grabbed him and threw him to the floor, then got on top of him and started punching him in the face “over and over”. No security guard was available, and nearby staff were too afraid to intervene. He complains of a headache and blurry vision. He also says his jaw hurts and he has trouble opening his mouth when he speaks. The emergency room physician immediately orders a CT scan of the brain and facial bones to look for occult injuries.
One of the many ways violence or assault can be defined is the use of physical force with full intent to cause harm to a person. The injuries caused by such physical force are violence or assault injuries. There are numerous laws and legislations against such happenings. Still, it is quite unfortunate that these events are common in the workplace.
Workplace violence and injuries have been classified into many different types. Broadly, they are:
- Fatal violence/assault
- Non-fatal violence/assault
Violence/Assault Injuries at Workplace-Some Statistics
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), millions of Americans fall prey to workplace violence. Some disturbing numbers have come into light which approximate that there have been at least 20,050 assault-related injuries and 392 fatalities in the year 2020 alone.
These statistics are enough to raise a major concern about workplace violence. The matter should be dealt with urgency, with a focus on how to prevent such incidence.
At-Risk Occupations for Violence/Assault Injuries
According to the National Safety Council’s research in the year 2020, the incidence of workplace-related violence and assault injuries was seen to be more common in the following industries and occupations ranked in order:
- Service Providing Industries
- Educational Services
- Health Services
- Legal Service Industries
- Sales and Related Industries
- Transportation and Moving Industries
Although the risk of such an incidence is practically present in all occupations, these occupations are at the highest likelihood.
The Risk of Violence/Assault Injuries at Workplace
Violence and assault at the workplace cover a wide range of incidents that can occur to a person at his/her place of occupation. At the one end, violence can be restricted to verbal abuse, threats, or intimidations. At the most end of the spectrum is physical assault resulting in injury or even homicide.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), physical assault and violence are now becoming the third leading cause of occupational fatalities. This shows just how important it has become to address the issue appropriately.
What does the Law say about Violence/Assault Injuries at Work?
The Occupational Safety and Health Association, OSHA’s General Duty Clause states that a safe workplace should have a zero-tolerance policy for violence towards its workers. It also reiterates the need for violence training which will enlighten the workers on what to do in case of an incident of this nature. The workplace should consider utilising expert help on threat assessment and physical security provision.
Workers should be encouraged to report any incidence. This should include any physical or verbal threats.
Types of Violence/Assault Injuries at Workplace
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has majorly classified occupational violence/assault injuries into the following four categories.
- Type 1- Criminal Intent
- Type 2- Customer/Client
- Type 3- Worker on Worker
- Type 4- Personal Relationships
In all these scenarios, violence is committed mainly by hitting, kicking, stabbing, strangulation, rape and sexual assault, verbal assault, or shooting.
Type 1- Criminal Intent
This type of violent injury is mainly defined as the one where the assailant has no direct relationship with the victim or the workplace. Incidences of type 1 violence usually occur coincidentally with some other crime such as robbery, mugging, or mass shootings.
Type 2- Customer/Client
This type of violence involves a direct relationship between the assailant and the victim. The assailant is usually the customer who is being offered services by the particular industry. This type of violence is extremely common in healthcare setups. This includes assaults on healthcare providers by disgruntled patients.
Type 3- Worker on Worker
These acts of violence usually take place between workers in the same workplace. Ex-workers or employees assaulting the current workers also fall in this category.
Usually, the assailant has some grudges against the victim who is a co-worker. It is, therefore, necessary for a workplace to have a dispute resolving committee. The presence of a third-party negotiation can reduce such incidences.
Type 4- Personal Relationships
These acts of violence are against the victim based on personal relationships and grudges. The reason they are grouped in occupational violence is that they are committed in the victim’s workplace. An example can be domestic abuse where the spouse assaults the victim at his/her place of occupation.
Prevention and Management of Workplace Violence/Assault Injuries
NIOSH has laid down some guidelines to be followed in every workplace. This is to ensure a safe working environment and eliminate the occurrence of workplace violence. These guidelines are as follows:
- All possible measures of providing physical security should be undertaken.
- The workplace should be staffed to avoid over-burdening and over-exertion of employees.
- The workplace should offer counselling services to its employees.
- Only limited access to the staff should be provided.
- Locks should be installed at the entrance doors.
- Video surveillance facilities should be present in the workplace to allow monitoring of the environment.
All workplace assaults should be reported to the employer and the occupational health team. This should allow the employer to enforce strategies to prevent such things in the future.
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