Although workplace violence is receiving increased attention in the media, the incidents that make the news are only the tip of the iceberg.
The data on workplace violence is scattered and inadequate to understand the extent of the problem. Many acts of nonfatal violence and threats in the workplace go unreported because there is no coordinated data-collection system to process the information. More than 936,000 of the nearly 2 million workplace crimes committed yearly were not reported to the police. Rape and sexual assaults were reported to the police at an even lower rate of 24 percent.
Most incidents of violence fall into four categories:
It is the employer’s responsibility to maintain a safe workplace free of violence. Supervisors should not assume violence is just “part of the job” and that workers shouldn’t complain.
Work with your union. If you experience workplace violence and are represented by a union, talk to your union representative. Urge other members to document all assault incidents, close calls and abusive behavior.
Unions have been pushing for the recognition of workplace violence as an occupational issue, not just a criminal justice issue, and support voluntary implementation of workplace violence prevention programs.
Contact OSHA. Although there is no OSHA standard designed to protect workers from violence, OSHA has cited employers under the General Duty Clause, which requires employers to provide a safe workplace. To sustain a general duty clause violation, OSHA must prove the existence of a hazard, which is recognized and causes or is likely to cause death or serious physical harm, and the existence of a feasible and effective method to abate the hazard.