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Danger at Work

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Workplace safety has been a significant priority in the United States for decades and, from some perspectives, an area in which we have made a great deal of progress. OSHA, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, regularly employs more than 2,100 inspectors at more than eight million work sites from coast to coast who are tasked with overseeing the health and safety of more than 130 million workers. In the more than four decades since OSHA was established, to say it has dramatically impacted workplace safety is something of an understatement.

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Danger at Work

  1. 1. Danger at Work: How to Spot a Potentially Violent Co-Worker E B O O K
  2. 2. 2 Workplace safety has been a significant priority in the United States for decades and, from some perspectives, an area in which we have made a great deal of progress. OSHA, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, regularly employs more than 2,100 inspectors at more than eight million work sites from coast to coast who are tasked with overseeing the health and safety of more than 130 million workers. In the more than four decades since OSHA was established, to say it has dramatically impacted workplace safety is something of an understatement. In 1970, for example, there was an average of 38 worker deaths per day in the United States due to unsafe conditions and hazards like falls, being struck by an object, electrocutions and more. Flash forward to 2015 and that number was reduced to 13 per day. Worker injuries and illnesses are also on a significant decline, down from an average of 10.9 incidents per 100 workers in 1972 to just three per 100 workers in 2015. But unfortunately, as times continue to change, the types of threats that people face on the job do as well. What do you do if the environment that you’re working in and around is not the most pressing danger that you face daily? What happens if the true threat to workplace safety has nothing to do with electricity or a giant piece of construction equipment, but rather the people that you work alongside every day? Sadly, this is precisely the situation that millions of workers around the country now face. It is also a problem that does not discriminate—it can happen anywhere, at any time and be sparked by someone who seems normal but inside is hiding a deep, dark secret or urge. Workplace Violence: The Statistics According to the 2017 NCVRW Resource Guide, homicides in the workplace have been dramatically reduced since 1994. In 2014, for example, they accounted for just 10% of all fatal workplace injuries —a reduction of 62% from just two decades earlier. However, these numbers can be deceiving, and most would agree that even 10% is far too many. When you also consider the fact that firearm-related workplace homicides accounted for an astounding 75% of all workplace homicides in 2014, it’s easy to see that we still have a long way to go. Again, this issue affects all of us and does not discriminate based on any location or profession. While those who work in law enforcement are obviously at a greater risk than those in other fields, things don’t end there. The other industries that are affected the most by workplace violence include mental health, transportation, retail sales, medical and even teaching. While many people are victimized Make no mistake: Potentially violent co-workers are the new “danger at work” in the modern era. Management and employees must work together to develop strategies and plans to prevent and respond to incidents.
  3. 3. 3 by a stranger (to the tune of 60% of all recorded incidents), some are also victims of co-workers with whom they have a casual or even close relationship. It should come as no surprise that these numbers are directly proportional to another unfortunate trend in the United States: mass shootings. Consider the following statistics: • More than 1.3 million people per year, worldwide, die a violent death due to some type of incident like a mass shooting. • Since as recently as 2000, about six million people across the world have been killed in some type of act of interpersonal violence. • As far as mass shootings are concerned specifically, there were 1,516 mass shootings in 1,735 days in the United States of America. The conclusion is clear: while it’s true that the frequency of workplace violence acts themselves may be going down, the severity of each incident is skyrocketing. No, the modern age is not the most violent in United States history. Even if you take the colonization of the Americas out of the conversation, there are still two world wars in the last century that claimed more lives. Unfortunately, interpersonal violence is an increasingly severe problem if current trends continue. All of this is a long way of saying that yes, workplace violence is still a very serious problem that must be addressed. But a large part of solving a problem is understanding it thoroughly. When it comes to mitigating the risk from workplace violence, employees at all levels should know how to spot a potentially violent co-worker. What Is OSHA’S Role in Workplace Violence? To help curb the issue, organizational leaders must understand that they have an ally in OSHA. Because the OSHA General Duty Clause requires all employers to provide a safe and healthful workplace for all workers, OSHA representatives will investigate any act of workplace violence that occurs. Indeed, OSHA’s research has been essential in understanding this issue from as many different angles as possible. We now know more about the types of violence that occur, including: • Self-directed violence, meaning acts that are committed on oneself (example: suicide). • Interpersonal violence, meaning acts that are committed between coworkers, acquaintances, and even strangers. • Collective violence, meaning issues stemming from a nationstate,militiasoreventerroristgroups.Obviously in the workplace, this type of incredibly rare. But OSHA’s reach only goes so far; ultimately business owners and leaders are responsible for providing the safest possible working environment. OSHA can only provide guidelines, rules, and recommendations—a “light to shine the way,” so to speak. The burden of addressing danger at work, both for now and in the future, must begin with a full commitment from the organization itself.
  4. 4. 4 Curbing Dangers at Work: Prevention Plans Curbing the risk associated with workplace violence will always begin and end with a solid prevention plan. This requires complete buy-in from management and must be communicated in a way that makes every employee aware of the essential role that they play in identifying and communicating possible risks. A comprehensive risk assessment and worksite analysis will be required, for example, to include factors such as: • Known vocations of high risk. • Known triggers. • Known signs. Such a plan should also include hazard and threat prevention and controls, safety training and exercises, and especially recordkeeping and program evaluation. The plan shouldn’t be completed and forgotten. Instead, it should be evaluated and updated on a regular basis, using information to strengthen the prevention plan and allow it to evolve as conditions change. As stated, part of the success of the plan will involve knowing not only which vocations are known to carry with them a high level of risk, but also coming up with unique plans to address specific risks. Healthcare professionals, those who operate in social service settings, taxi drivers, and late-night retail businesses are all at higher-than-average levels of risk. As a result, there is no “one size fits all” approach to mitigating workplace violence. The best defense is creating a plan customized to the organization, getting support from management, and educating employees. Equally important is a deeper understanding of the known triggers that are consistent among many workplace violence events, regardless of vocation or setting. These include business downturns, personal struggle, and turmoil in world events. Any of these can cause employees to “act outside the boundaries of their character,”makingitmorelikelythattheybecomeviolent. As previously mentioned, it is always important to come up with unique prevention and response plans in situations where these types of events can occur. In addition to considering the unique characteristics of the job and the employee, it is equally important to consider factors like workplace design, work practices, and administrative processes. These will be unique to each environment and all play a role in how successful hazard and threat prevention will ultimately be. Safety Training and Exercises Diving deeper, it is of paramount importance for company leadership to mandate and monitor safety training and other exercises on a regular basis to help address potential dangers at work. If a violent situation does occur, calling 911 as quickly as possible will always be a priority—but the defensive actions do not end there. Employees should be trained on how to recognize gunfire, for example—particularly in environments that are already loud. They should know how to respond quickly and how to maintain a survival mindset in situations where stress is incredibly high. The burden of addressing danger at work, both for now and in the future, must begin with a full commitment from the organization itself.
  5. 5. For more information: onsolve.com 866 939 0911 Evacuation plans should be a top priority. Where are your escape routes? How do those routes change depending on the location in the building? These are all essential questions that employees must know how to answer. Do employees know their environment well enough to know exactly where they would hide? These are the types of topics that safety training programs and exercises should address. Incidents of workplace violence are an unfortunate fact of life. But that doesn’t mean organizations have no power to change their outcomes. By understanding the threats, and how to respond quickly, there’s a much better chance of preventing the type of disaster that seems all-too-common in the modern era. Employees are, and will always be, the best defense against threats. Their involvement in identifying potentially violent co-workers, as well as their ability to respond to a crisis, can dramatically minimize negative outcomes. Business owners and leaders should make employee awareness and education a top priority to prevent loss. © 2017 OnSolve, LLC. All rights reserved. » About OnSolve OnSolve is the market leader in real-time, mass notification and collaboration solutions used by the world’s largest brands and thousands of government agencies to deliver critical information in any situation. Mass notification and collaboration is an essential element of emergency response and business continuity planning, keeping teams on track and coordinating during critical events. The OnSolve suite of critical communication tools is a key component of the business continuity, emergency response, IT alerting, employee safety and security programs of every organization we serve. Visit us on the Web at www.onsolve.com. REQUEST A DEMO LEARN WHY OnSolve should be part of your Crisis Communication Plan

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