Are Workplace Homicides Growing?

Violence, or even homicides, in the workplace are something we all hear about from time to time, but never really think it could happen to us. The violence is sometimes directed at an individual (such as an overbearing boss or abusive co-worker) but sometimes it seems random. As much as we’d all like to think otherwise, workplace violence can happen in any area.

Statistics from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) state that homicide is the fourth largest cause of fatalities in the United States. This is an extremely significant number. In 2010, 506 of the 4547 workplace fatalities were the result of homicide. What is even more disturbing is that homicides are the #1 cause of death in the workplace for women.

What can be Done?

Once people look at these statistics, they need to resolve to take action to improve the safety in a workplace. Unfortunately, most people don’t really know how to make a safer environment against this type of threat.

“Bad people are out there who want to harm good people, so we must admit that we need to be prepared for violence at work,” a former Navy SEAL says. “Just as workers may practice cardiopulmonary resuscitation or a fire drill, they also should practice how to evade or stop someone bent on hurting others”. – Anita Bruzzese, USA TODAY

Training drills and educational events are very important for preparing for any type of workplace violence. Just like any other type of safety threat, knowledge is the most powerful weapon a workplace can have.

Everyone should know what they need to do in the event of workplace violence. They should be prepared to evacuate, staying as low as possible (similar to a fire) and staying in protected areas as much as they can. Finding a secured room to hide in is another important safety tip which many people don’t immediately think of. With most threats, everyone is instructed to congregate together in a designated area. With this, however, it is often best to barricade yourself in a safe room until the situation is resolved.

Other safety tips can include:

  • Learn how to Identify Threats – Training employees on how to identify threatening behavior, or how to react when they see someone with a gun, knife or other weapon can help to defuse a situation before it becomes violent.
  • Fighting Back – Most people are trained to avoid becoming violent in the workplace at all costs, however, in these types of situations, everyone must know that they need to do whatever it takes to survive. While fleeing or hiding is the best choice, employees should not hesitate to fight back if the opportunity presents itself.
  • Disarming the Attacker – Similar to the item above, it can be helpful for people to know how to disarm an attacker safely. In most cases of workplace violence, it is one person going on a rampage.  This can often allow other employees to tackle them from behind without being hurt. Teaming up with other employees to take down an attacker can also be effective.
  • Never Give Up – Experts say that those who go through these types of situations with a mindset that they won’t allow the attacker to win, typically have better results. Try to keep calm as much as possible, and react with a clear head.

Watching for Threats

As an employer, it is also a good idea to watch out for potential problems. When an employee is having a hard time at home, or has shown behavioral changes, it is a good idea to keep a closer eye on them. The vast majority of times, nothing will happen, but if you’re prepared, it is possible to stop a violent situation before it happens. If your facility has security guards, for example, asking them to patrol in the area around individuals that you are concerned about can discourage them from becoming violent.

Additional Resources