Determining Your Risk for Workplace Violence
To the majority of people, if you mention Workplace Violence, the image of an armed disgruntled ex-employee shooting everyone in sight is usually the first thing that comes to mind. “Going postal”, they think.
Reality, however, shows us that such occurrences are almost as rare as armed, disgruntled postal employees going berserk. At the top of the list of Workplace Violence incidents are verbal and (unarmed) physical assaults. This fact is essential to understand when assessing the risk of Workplace Violence in your workplace, and planning proper policies and responses.
Violence prevention and intervention begins with assessing risks and identifying the category of violence that poses the greatest threat. Then you can tailor your security measures and training to address that type of violence.
- It was allegedly a contentious divorce that pushed Scott Dekraai over the edge. On October 12, 2011, just one day after he appeared in court to ask for more time with his 8-year-old son, Dekraai put on body armor, armed himself, and went to the Seal Beach, California, beauty salon where his ex-wife worked as a hairdresser. Dekraai opened fire, killing eight people, including his ex-wife.
- In his community, Shareef Allman was known as a likeable, “deeply spiritual” man. But at work, he’d been having problems. Allman reportedly believed he was the victim of racial discrimination. He’d had run-ins with the safety department, too. He had recently served a three-week suspension for violating workplace safety rules. On October 5, Allman showed up at the Lehigh Hanson Permanente Cement Plant in Cupertino, California, poured himself a cup of coffee, and began shooting co-workers who were attending a safety meeting. Three of Allman’s co-workers died.
Types of Workplace Violence
Workplace violence typically falls into one of four categories, according to NIOSH. Different workplaces are at risk for different types of violence, so identifying the type you’re most at risk for can help you determine what you need to do to protect your workplace.
Type I: Criminal Intent
In this kind of violent incident, the perpetrator has no legitimate relationship with the business or its employee(s). Rather, the violence is incidental to another crime, such as a robbery, mugging, theft, shoplifting, or trespassing. Acts of terrorism also fall into this category. The vast majority of workplace homicides (85 percent) are Type I violence.
Your workplace may be at higher risk of Type I violence if your business:
- Handles cash or drugs
- Could become a target for terrorists
Type II: Customer/Client
When the violent person has a legitimate relationship with the business (for example, the person is a customer, client, patient, student, or inmate) and becomes violent while being served by the business, the violence falls into this category.
A large portion of customer/client incidents occur in the healthcare industry, in settings such as nursing homes or psychiatric facilities. The victims are often patient caregivers. Police officers, prison staff, flight attendants, and teachers can also become victims of this type of violence.
Only about 3 percent of all workplace homicides result from Type II violence, but this category accounts for the majority of nonfatal workplace violent incidents.
Type III: Worker-on-Worker
The perpetrator of Type III violence is an employee or former employee who attacks or threatens co-workers or former-co-workers in the workplace. The Shareef Allman case is an example of this type of violence. Worker-on-worker fatalities account for approximately 7 percent of all workplace homicides.
All workplaces are at risk of this type of violence, but workplaces at higher risk include those that:
- Do not conduct a criminal background check as part of the hiring process
- Are downsizing or otherwise reducing their workforce .
Type IV: Personal Relationship
The perpetrator, like Scott Dekraai, usually does not have a relationship with the business but has a personal relationship with the intended victim. The category includes victims of domestic violence who are assaulted or threatened at work and accounts for about 5 percent of all workplace homicides.
This type of violence can occur in all workplaces but is most difficult to prevent in workplaces that:
- Are accessible to the public during business hours, such as a retail business
- Have only one location, making it impossible to transfer employees who are being threatened
Tomorrow’s post will look at the importance of having a violence prevention policy, and training employees to help prevent workplace violence as well as to act effectively to protect lives if and when violence occurs.