working violence.

Workplace violence is a major issue in the United States based on the number of workers it affects. In an attempt to solve the issue, this paper analyzes the extent of the problem especially in high risk occupations such as the service industry and retail trade. The paper also looks at the strategies that have been put in place by different organizations to prevent workplace violence. The paper ends with some recommendations which can be applied to prevent workplace violence.   
    Workplace violence can be defined as any violence or kind of threat the employees of a particular organization are exposed to in their place of work or outside. Workplace violence may include physical attack, murder, threats and abuses issued verbally. Therefore, workplace violence may be physical violence which involves kicking and punching between the employees or between the employees and outsiders. Threat and intimidation of any kind in the work environment either from fellow employees or from the employer are also considered to be workplace violence. Statistics indicates that the number of deaths related to jobs or other workplace related violence is on the increase. Due to this reason, workplace violence has become a major concern not only to those directly involved, but rather other stakeholders have become very concerned. Hence it has become imperative that plans to reduce workplace violence are put in place (OSHA, 2002, p 1).
Workplace Violence
    Violence at place of work should be taken seriously by the employees and the employers as well as the authorities. Workplace violence has far reaching effect on the workplace environment due to its great influence on the workers morale. Frequent workplace violence in a particular organization is more likely to damage the reputation of the organization which may in turn affect the ability of the institution to attract competent and dependable staff. Workplace violence is associated with additional expenses as a result of employees being frequently absent and insurance premiums being higher as a result of increased risks. The organization may also incur additional costs as a result of legal fees in case the organization is sued by the workers for negligence and the resulting compensation and penalties. To the employees, violence at place of work may result into suffering and disability due to physical harm, psychological problems leading to distress and even worse - death. Physical violence may have serious and immediate consequences on the employees but persistent intimidations and threats may have adverse short term and long term effects on the employees health and ability to work for the organizations as a result of anxiety and stress. Thus, gossips at the place of work are also identified by many scholars as workplace violence due to the distress and lack of comfort it is associated with (Paludi, 2006, p 13).
    Everyday, there are cases of work place violence being reported in the United State and different parts of the world. The media today is full of these reports which call for interventions to determine the cause and possible solution to the problem. The attention attracted by workplace violence is partly as a result of the report published by the National Institute for Safety and Health together with other organizations indicating the level of violence workers in the United States are exposed to in their places of work. However, the media has focused on the violence the workers are exposed to as a result of confrontations with co-workers and their employers while failing to address the violence experienced by workers such as taxi drivers and security officers in the course of their duties. These workers are frequently attacked in their places of work and very often these incidences go unreported in the media. Many cashiers, restaurant employees and retailer sellers are attacked every day all over the United States and therefore workplace violence is of serious concern. It is not in order for death or physical assault to be inevitable as a result of the career or a job an individual chooses nor should violence be accepted as a cost of doing business or working in the United States or any other part of the world.
    Although the strategies that may be developed to reduce incidences of violence at places of work may not be applicable or even appropriate at all places of work, there is need to review the workplace violence with an aim of reducing or preventing incidences of workplace violence. There is need for both the administrators at place of work and the authorities to develop strategies to deal with the ever increasing threat the workers are faced with at their places of work. Prevention of workplace violence is inevitable even if it means changing the workplace settings or the way work in an organization is done to reduce the risk involved in working for the organization (NIOSH, 1996, p 4).
    In many cases, violence at place of work has been treated differently by analysts, although it is a criminal act like any other violence. One of the reasons why workplace violence is of importance is the number of deaths related to this violence. Workplace violence has become a major contributor of physical injuries and deaths in the United States. NIOSH data indicates that violence at place of work is the second leading among the causes of injuries and deaths in the United States only surpassed by road accidents. Moreover, almost two million American workers are assaulted at their workplaces in course of their duties. The national survey also indicates that workplace violence accounts for over fifteen percent of all violence attacks reported in the United States.
    Another reason why violence associated with the place of work differs from other forms of violence is the circumstances under which this violence takes place. A very good example is a report by NIOSH that indicated that over three quarters of all deaths at workplaces in 1993 were as a result of armed robbery while less than ten percent of homicides reported in the same year in the general population were related to robbery. The same report indicated that while almost half of all homicides reported in the general population involved the murderer and the victim being closely related or familiar to each other, majority of murders or attacks at workplaces involved persons not known to the victims. Most of the violence leading to death in the general population was mainly related to unstable relationship which contributed less than twenty percent of the reported workplace violence. 
    Research on workplace violence indicates that the risk involved in work places varies from one place of work to another. The risk is therefore not randomly distributed across the whole work force since some occupations are reported to be much more risky than others. Retail trader and workers in service industry are reported to be at a much higher risk accounting for over half of all occupational homicides in the United States. In these industries, occupation related homicide is rated as one of the leading causes of deaths among the workers. It is also reported that 85 percent of all assaults at places of work in the United States occur in these service and trade industries. With the changing economy in the United States, where more focus is on the service industry, workplace violence is increasing and is likely to be a major security and health concern if desperate measures by both the workplace administrators and the authority are not taken (NIOSH, 1996, p 5). 
    Other reasons why occupation related violence is special compared to other forms of violence is the specific factors which provide the risk of violent attacks. These factors include the workers being in close contact with the public or dealing with exchange of liquid cash or goods and services delivery. Consequently, due to the specific factors that contribute to this violence, there lies a better opportunity of implementing ways of preventing or reducing cases of this violence. Prevention strategies can be put in place since it is easier to identify loopholes where the workers are likely to be attacked as compared to cases if the attack was directed to the general population (NIOSH, 1996, p 5). 
    In the 1980s and the early 1990s, workplace violence was less common but increased tremendously towards the end of the 20th century. By the years 2000, the number of deaths attributed to workplace violence was more than deaths caused by machines and approached the number resulting from road carnage. Majority of deaths resulting from occupational violence affects men according to NIOSH data released in 1995. However, the report indicated that there were a good number of female deaths where majority of them worked as retail traders and in the service industries. There was disparity on the occupation of the male victims, though most of them worked in the service industries and retail business, a good number worked as public administrators or in transportation industry which was not observed in their female counterparts. The same report indicated that homicide was the main cause of workplace related deaths among the women. However, men were reported to be faced with a higher risk of homicide in their place of work compared to women.
    The NIOSH report also indicated that workplace violence involved workers of all ages ranging from 16 to 93 years. Although the largest number of victims who died out of occupational homicide was between mid twenties and mid thirties, the rate of death increased with increase in age. The highest rate was recorded among workers aged over sixty five years old. This trend was observed in both the male and female workers in all states. Race was also observed to be a factor where majority of the victims were observed to be white, although there was a higher risk for workers of other races (NIOSH, 1996, p 6).
    In the late 20th century and today, majority of workplace homicides involves the use of lethal firearms. Firearms contribute to the increased number of homicides in the place of work in many parts of the world including the United States. However, the high number of deaths and injuries related to workplace violence is just a tip of the iceberg. There are many cases of not physical attacks, such as intimidation, that go unreported, which means there is no substantial data on the same. The judicial systems as well as the public health statistics have little information about the magnitude of occupational related violence which is nonfatal. Though there are many incidences being reported in the media about workplaces violence, the media reports only the fatal incidences while the nonfatal incidences are never reported nor recorded. Despite the fact that the effect of fatal or nonfatal violence to the employees or the employers varies, they have something in common. Whether the violent attack was fatal or nonfatal, the worker was at his or her place of work and going about his or her business as usual, but a situation facilitated by the environment in the workplace exposes the worker to attack by coworkers or people from outside. These situations are however predictable and preventable to some extent. However, with almost two million workers in the United States being victims of occupational related attacks and with its cost to the employers being in billions, there is no substantial research which aims at developing strategies to reduce workplace violence and its consequences.
    However, occupational violence has received increased consideration as a result of increased awareness on the adverse effects of violence in the place of work. There is still a big information gap on the causes and best approach in order to reduce incidences of physical attacks and intimidations in workplaces. Today, the level of violence associated with workers occupations in the United States is not well known nor is the exact number of workers suffering from these attacks known. This is more so when nonfatal attacks are considered, since most of them go unreported. Although workplace violence is easy to predict and possibly easy to seal the loophole, the case applies to fatal attacks and is less applicable to nonfatal attacks among the workers or by people from outside. Therefore, addressing occupational violence is a complicated issue due to the fact that violence emerges from several causes and strategies aimed at dealing with the problem should address all these causes (Merchant, et al, 2001, p 3).
    Workplace violence may be as a result of a criminal intent where the perpetrator does not have any legal attachment with the workers or the organization and in many cases commits other crimes in the cause of the violent attack. The aim of the perpetrator may not be attack and always involves other crimes such as theft, burglary, robbery or trespassing. About 85 percent of occupational related homicides are as a result of this kind of workplace violence. The perpetrators of a violent attack can also be a customer or a client to the organization who may turn violent in the course of being served by the workers. In this case, the executors of the attack and the organization have a legitimate relationship. This category is more widespread in the service industry where there are cases of students attacking teachers, patients attacking doctors and nurses or inmates attacking the prison officers. The nurses and caregivers in health facilities, nursing homes and organizations that give psychiatric services as well as prison staff are believed to be at higher risk of such workplace violence due to the type of clients they deal with.
    The other form of workplace attack involves a worker being attacked by a co-worker. The attack may not be physical leading to injury or death but may be a threat or intimidation which may make the worker feel uncomfortable. However, this category of violence accounts for about seven percent of workplace homicides reported in the United States. The violence may also take the form in which the perpetrator and the victim may have some personal relationship. The violence may be as a result of domestic violence or individual differences which may overflow to the workplace. Understanding the category of the attack is essential in the establishment of a solution to the problem. However, the little information about nonfatal attacks, the implication of workplace violence on the organizations performance and the effectiveness of the employees is a major setback on the development of a hybrid solution to the violence being experienced in workplaces (Merchant, et al, 2001, p 5).
    To protect their employees from possible attack by individuals with criminal intent, organizations have developed different mechanisms depending on the work environment. This includes provisions of favorable environment which does not discourage the criminals. This includes proper lighting of the workplace, use of security engineering technology and hardware to dispirit the assailants. Organizations have also developed administrative programs and implemented policies and practices in their workplaces which create a safe environment for the employees. Many organizations have also developed training programs for their employees to train them on interpersonal relationship to equip their employees with mechanisms of responding to conflicts and violence in the workplaces. However, there are limited reports on the effectiveness of these measures in reducing workplace violence with criminal intentions.
    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration which is an organization dealing with the safety of workers in their places of work has come up with guidelines that can be employed to reduce violence associated with workplaces. The guidelines are specific for special types of organizations, especially those which involve higher risks. However, there is a need to evaluate the effectiveness of these guidelines within a specific workplace environment in order to establish whether they can be relied upon (Merchant, et al, 2001, p 7).
    The United States government does not have regulations that directly prevent the workers from workplace violence. The guidelines developed by The Occupational Safety and Health Administration are not recognized by the Federal or the states law. However, some states have enacted some laws that touch directly on issues related to workplace violence. These states have legislations that prevent the medical care workers from attacks by their clients and others to safeguard the security of workers in retail businesses working overnight. The implementation of these laws requires some of these stores to change their mode of operation which has resulted in most of them opting to close early rather than comply with the regulations. The changes in the law and the early closing have not been evaluated to determine the extent of workplace reduction. At the local level, some of the OSHA recommendations have been implemented. For example, the greatest risk of workplace violence is faced by taxi drivers, according to statistics. However, these statistics focus on the fatal assaults which are very common among the taxi driver in the American cities. Some security regulations such as installation of barriers which are bullet proof in taxis have been implemented in many states in the United States. However, more research needs to be carried out to access the effectiveness of this approach in the reduction of homicides among the taxi drivers.
    Risk in different organizations presents the administrators with varying challenges in dealing with violence in work places. The type of business, number and type of client as well as the type of workers in the business dictates the interventions to be taken to reduce workplace violence. The workers also need to play an active role in ensuring that workplace violence is reduced. For this reason, employers have tried to implement measures which assure their employees safety. In many workplaces, there is enhanced physical security such as improved lighting or better methods of handling liquid cash which reduce the likelihood of attack. Organizations have also developed team oriented response to any threat posed at their places of work. There are established programs in many organizations which aim at assisting employees who are at risk of attack by acquaintances, relatives, spouses or co-workers while at their place of work. Development of strict policies that do not allow any threat or intimidations in the places of work has been predicted to be a possible solution to some non-physical attacks among the workers. Training programs to educate workers on detection of hazardous situations have also been formed in different organizations which give the workers knowledge on how to respond to these situations. Many organizations screen their workers and clients whenever it is possible to help the administration detect individuals in the organizations premises who are a threat to the security of other workers. Since most of the liability of any attack at the place of work is bent towards the employers who are accused of negligence, organizations are opting to incur additional running costs by contracting security firms that are specialized in prevention of violence at work places (Merchant, et al, 2001 p 8).
    In my own view, workplace violence is a major concern to both the employers and the workers. As an administrator in a workplace, I would take desperate measures to ensure that the workers entitled to me are safe and free from any attack. This would be done through identification of the risk factors associated with workplace violence. These factors include the environment, the practices at the workplace and characterizations of possible perpetrators of violence as well as their victims. The first interventions will be to ensure that the environment does not allow any violence. This can be done by reducing the availability of weapons among the workers and visitors through increased surveillance. In case violence emerges with no weapons available, injuries as well as fatality level will be greatly reduced. To ensure security in hospitals, especially for medical workers dealing with mentally ill patients, following the patient history would be paramount to establish the risk involved in handling the particular patient. To increase the security of the environment of work, I would put necessary mechanisms to restrict access by the general public in the working areas. This will include, if necessary, the use of staff uniforms and name tags for easier identification of the employees by the security personnel. The location of the organizations premises will also be a priority. The parking area should be well lit and the organizations vicinity should not be one that is inhabited by gangsters or drug abusers.
    The work place practices especially in organizations that deal will large number of clients is also a major contributor of workplace violence. To avoid cases of attack due to unsatisfied or delayed clients, I would avoid long waiting queues especially when dealing with impatient clients. This can be effected by the number of staff members being enough and competent to deal with the average number of clients. Isolation of working environment where a worker is left at the mercy of the client is also to be avoided. I would also develop programs to equip the workers with the ability to identify and deal with an aggressive visitor or intruder.
    Once I have ensured that the environment does not pose any risk to the workers and the practices at the place of work do not give room for violence, the next step will be to characterize the workers, clients and visitors to identify possible risky individuals being admitted in the organization. In most cases, a perpetrator of violence is more likely to have been involved in another violence making it easy to identify them from their profiles if they are frequent visitors or among the organizations workers. It is also important to be free with the workers who in turn will be able to disclose possible risks posed by their acquaintances or spouses which are likely to attract violence at the workplace.
    It is essential to ensure that the implemented strategies are effective in assuring the workers that there is so much needed security while at their places of work. Therefore, I would create a task force within the organization to oversee all security strategies in the company. This task force, once established, would have the full support of the organizations management in all aspects of their mandate. The task force should have representatives from all ranks and should be backed up by professionals on safety in organizations. As noted in many plans implemented in different organizations, many plans fail because they are not evaluated. Moreover, the effectiveness of the plans cannot be determined because they are not evaluated. The evaluations of the plan would include comparison of data before and after the implementation of the measures depending on the prevailing circumstances. The evaluation would also include looking at the types of incidences the plans were able and unable to eliminate and making appropriate recommendations. At this point, the input of every worker, especially those at a higher risk of attack, would be very valuable. This will be followed by implementation of the recommendations where appropriate to improve on the strategy.
    It is indisputable that many workers do not report cases of workplace violence, especially if the attack is not physical. Moreover, many organizations see the implementation of safety plans as an expensive venture. To avoid these shortcomings, a plan can be introduced directly to be implemented by the employees themselves rather than being implemented by the top management. Therefore, I would involve workers from all ranks or their representatives in the development, implementation and evaluation of the safety plan.


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