ASSE offers key prevention measures for rising workplace homicides

In 2003 workplace homicides increased faster than any other cause of a worker fatality, and females made up 81 percent of the total number of the 631 victims. In all, 5,559 people died from job-related injuries in the U.S. in 2003. The authors of the American Society of Safety Engineers' (ASSE) "Workplace Violence Survey and White Paper" urge employers to take action now to reduce the incidence of homicide in their workplace.

"Employers must realize that under federal and state OSHA regulations they have a general duty to furnish to each employee, employment and a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards that are causing, or likely to cause, death or serious harm to the employee," ASSE member and co-author of the recent ASSE "Workplace Violence Survey & White Paper" JoAnn M. Sullivan, CSP, noted. "Employers, under the theory of respondent superior, are vicariously liable for any actions committed by employees within the scope of their employment. The employer is liable for actions of the employee when the employee is working, even if the employee is not acting within company policy."

Workplace violence includes homicides, physical attacks, rapes and other assaults, all forms of harassment and any other act that creates a hostile work environment, Sullivan noted.

Transportation incidents were the number one cause of on-the-job deaths followed by falls as the number two and homicides as the number three. Of these three top causes of on-the-job deaths, homicide, with a total of 631 workplace fatalities, is the only one on the rise and recording its first increase since 2000. Workplace suicides are also on the rise, with 218 recorded in 2003. The majority of homicides were due to shootings with 487, and 58 stabbings.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 512 females and 119 men were victims of workplace homicides. The profession with the most homicides was sales and related occupations with 182 followed by protective service occupations -- 95; transportation and material moving -- 83; management -- 64; food preparation and serving-related -- 41; office and administrative support -- 37; installation, maintenance, and repair -- 27; production occupations -- 27; construction and extraction -- 17; personal care and service -- 11; building grounds, cleaning, and maintenance -- 10; farming, fishing, and forestry -- nine; health care practitioners and technical workers -- six; health care support occupations -- six; supervisors, production workers -- six; business and financial operations -- four; community and social services -- three, and three were unspecified.

The places where the homicides occurred were public buildings with 330 followed by the "street" -- 89; industrial area -- 58; residence -- 50; farm -- 10; institution -- 10; recreation area -- six, and according to the BLS places where 78 homicides occurred were not specified.

The May 2004 "Workplace Violence Survey of ASSE members & White Paper" done by the ASSE Risk Management and Insurance (RM/I) Practice Specialty found, unfortunately, that many companies and organizations in all industries have yet to address the problem of workplace violence. Noting that one size does not fit all, ASSE RM/I members suggest employers consider doing the following to address the prevention of workplace violence: