Workplace Violence Initiative: Research and Implementation

This initiative which started in early 2002 is the result of a congressional appropriation of $2 million. Congress directed NIOSH “…to develop an intramural and extramural prevention research program that will target all aspects of workplace violence and to coordinate its efforts with the Departments of Justice and Labor.”

In terms of extramural research, five grants totaling approximately $1.8 million were funded in September 2002.

The intramural funding is being used in the following areas:

A Federal Interagency Task Force on Workplace Violence Research and Prevention has been developed and the inaugural meeting was held January 23, 2003. The Task Force was formed to provide a forum for Federal agencies to share information on workplace violence research and prevention efforts as well as opportunities for collaborative efforts.

The NIOSH Initiative also includes an outreach component comprised of stakeholder meetings focused on four different areas of workplace violence(violence in health care settings, violence in retail trade, domestic violence in the workplace, and violence against law enforcement and security professions) to participate in separate meetings that will provide an opportunity for stakeholders who have an interest in workplace violence issues to share information about their organization; identify possible research gaps; and, identify opportunities for collaborative efforts.

Several research efforts are also encompassed under the initiative including analysis of the Workplace Risk Supplement that NIOSH funded as a special supplement to the National Crime Victimization for the period January through June of 2002, a telephone survey of workers treated for work-related assault injuries in a sample of U.S. hospital emergency departments, and planning for a survey of employers with regard to workplace violence policies, training, and related issues to be conducted in collaboration with the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Survey of Work-Related Assaults Treated in Hospital Emergency Departments

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) maintains a database of injuries treated in a nationally representative sample of U.S. hospital emergency departments (EDs) called the national Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). Data routinely collected through NEISS include a brief narrative description of the injury event and basic demographic information such as intent and mechanism of injury, work-relatedness, principal diagnosis, part of the body affected, location where the injury occurred, involvement of consumer products, and disposition at ED discharge. For assaults, summary data are also being collected in the relationship of the perpetrator to the injured person and the context (i.e., altercation, robbery, sexual assault, etc.). For work-related cases, occupation and industry information is collected.

The current study consists of a telephone interview survey of workers treated in NEISS hospital EDs for injuries sustained during a work-related assault. The data collection will occur over a one year period. The survey includes an extended narrative description of the injury incident as well as items regarding general workplace organization; personal characteristics of the worker; work tasks at the time of the assault; training on workplace violence risk factors and prevention strategies; security measures in place and how they impacted the outcome of the incident; and return to work after the assault. This study will provide critical information for understanding the nature and impact of nonfatal assault among U.S. workers. In combination with data collected from other sources, this information will ultimately contribute to the prevention of violence in the workplace.

The Evaluation of State-Based Approaches to Workplace Violence Prevention

In 2001, there were 639 workplace homicides in the U.S., the lowest number since the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries began in 1992. It is not clear what factors have influenced this reduction and whether it will be sustained in subsequent years. The National Crime Victimization Survey conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated 1.7 million nonfatal workplace victimizations occurred each year from 1993 to 1999, accounting for 18% of all violent crime during the 7-year period.

As the risks for workplace violence have been more completely described and recognized over the last decade, states and other policy-makers have begun to develop statutes, administrative regulations, or technical assistance information for workplace violence prevention. Unfortunately, there have been no rigorous evaluations of the effectiveness of any of the regulatory or other state-based efforts undertaken to date.

NIOSH is conducting an inventory of state-based approaches to workplace violence prevention to serve as a starting point for in-depth evaluations of the various efforts that have been implemented. Preliminary results indicate that there are some states, such as California and Washington, that have mandated requirements for training or other assessment of workplace violence risks, especially in particular high risk settings such as health care or late night retail. Others, such as Michigan, Minnesota, and Connecticut conduct special training programs related to workplace security. Some states (e.g., Indiana, Minnesota, Alaska) have issued general duty clause citations for workplace violence hazards. For the initial evaluation of a state-based effort, NIOSH funded a research contract for a comprehensive process and outcome evaluation of the California requirements in hospitals. A final report on this contract is expected in Fall 2003.

Employer-based Workplace Violence Prevention Survey

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has been conducting research on workplace violence risk factors and prevention strategies for a number of years using data from NIOSH sources, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, and others. The vast majority of the knowledge regarding workplace violence is based on information about worker victims of violent incidents, both fatal and nonfatal. Very little information exists regarding policies, training, and other related issues from an employer's perspective. The employers' perspective is a critical gap in the current workplace violence prevention effort.

To help fill this gap, The NIOSH and the BLS are conducting a survey of U.S. workplaces to evaluate the employers' perspectives regarding policies, training, and other related issues on workplace violence prevention, including risk factors associated with workplace violence and prevention strategies. The findings of the survey will allow characterization of how the issue of workplace violence is being addressed in the United States workplaces and may be useful to identify where educational interventions are needed. Additionally, the information obtained through this survey will assist employers, decision makers, trade groups, unions, and government agencies in implementation of more comprehensive workplace violence prevention programs.

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