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Workplace violence: It's more common than you might think

June 1, 2016
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A nightclub in Orlando. A church in Charleston. A movie theater in Aurora. A school in Littleton. We’ve all seen the headlines and been gripped by the same fear: if that level of violence can happen there, it can happen anywhere. Usually we think of these as places serving a particular function — fun, worship, or education — but each of the locations was also a workplace, making these acts a form of workplace violence.

Because of the increasing number of large-scale incidents like these, many employers have begun planning and even conducting emergency preparedness training for active-shooter scenarios. This preparation is vital. However, a Bureau of Justice Statistics’ study found that 80 percent of workplace violence could be characterized as simple, non-life-threatening assault.

In fact, you may not know that workplace violence is broadly defined as any act or threat of physical, verbal or psychological aggression. Threats considered workplace violence might be direct or veiled and come in verbal, written or electronic form, or even as gestures.

And workplace violence is more common than you might think. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, more than 2 million workers are victims of workplace violence each year. Co-worker altercations. Customer threats of retaliation. Domestic violence incidents that erupt at work. All of these situations fall under the broad definition of workplace violence and could lead to compensable claims, financial loss, physical injuries and even death.

As if that’s not bad enough, the National Institute for the Prevention of Workplace Violence estimated that the cost of a severe incident of workplace violence — accounting for revenue loss, lawsuit settlement, employee replacement and more — averages more than $4.6 million. Though ensuring employee safety is always our primary concern, it's important to remember that even threats, which are still considered incidents of workplace violence, come with a cost. Employees can experience trauma and increased stress. Productivity suffers. Turnover may occur, and what was once a positive company culture can be destroyed.

Looking for more information? Contact Safety on Call at safetyoncall@pinnacol.com to speak with a safety consultant about preventing workplace violence incidents.

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