Workplace Violence Fatalities Up in 2016

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently published workplace fatality statistics for 2016 showing a 7-percent increase from 2015.  Within this increase, workplace violence and other injuries by persons or animals increased 23 percent to become the second-most common fatal event in 2016.  This increase represents an additional 163 cases to 866 in 2016.  Workplace homicides increased by 83 cases to 500 in 2016, and workplace suicides increased by 62 to 291.  This is the highest homicide figure since 2010.  These statistics are a grim reminder that employers need to be proactive about workplace violence issues.  In an earlier blog, we discussed OSHA guidance on workplace violence which can be accessed at:

As mentioned in that blog, OSHA does not have a specific standard governing workplace violence but incidents may potentially be cited as a violation of the general duty clause.   Typical examples of employment situations that may pose a higher risk of workplace violence incidents include but are not limited to:

  1. Duties that involve the exchange of money
  2. Delivery of passengers, goods, or services
  3. Duties that involve mobile workplace assignments
  4. Working with unstable or volatile persons in health care, social service, or criminal justice settings
  5. Working alone or in small numbers
  6. Working late at night or during early morning hours
  7. Working in high-crime areas
  8. Duties that involve guarding valuable property or possessions
  9. Working in community-based settings
  10.  Working in a location with uncontrolled public access to the workplace

Some jurisdictions such as New York have enacted legislation requiring public sector employers to develop and implement programs to prevent and minimize workplace violence.  Although the New York law is limited to public sector employers, it can provide all private sector employers a good roadmap on what an effective workplace violence prevention program should include.  Generally speaking, employers should consider:

  • Developing and posting a written policy statement about the employer’s workplace violence prevention program goals and objectives
  • Conducting a risk evaluation by examining the workplace for potential hazards related to workplace violence
  • Developing a workplace violence prevention program that explains how the policy will be implemented which would ideally include details about the risks that were identified in the evaluation and describe how the employer will address such risks. The policy should also include a system to report any incidents of workplace violence similar to a reporting mechanism found in a sexual or other unlawful harassment policy
  • Providing training and information for employees including any risk factors and what employees can do to protect themselves
  • Documenting workplace violence incidents and maintain those records

In addition to OSHA issues, workplace violence could also expose businesses to liability in other areas such as vicarious liability for worker conduct based on a respondeat superior theory, negligent hiring and negligent retention and also have potential workers’ compensation implications.  Of course, the most important issue is simply the health and wellbeing of the employees.

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