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Violence in the Workplace

What’s the Problem?

Each week in the U.S., an average of 20 homicides and 18,000 assaults occur on the job. Homicide is the second leading cause of work-related death, exceeded only by motor vehicle fatalities. One million workers are assaulted every year, accounting for 15% of the violent acts experienced by U.S. residents age 12 or older.

Circumstances of workplace violence differ significantly from those of all homicides. For example, in 1993, robbery was a factor in 75% of workplace homicides but in only 9% of all homicides.

Most people who die in workplace homicides are killed by a stranger. Co-worker or former co-worker violence accounts for only about 5% of work-related homicides.

Who’s at Risk?

Our youngest (16- and 17-year-olds) and oldest (over 65) workers are at particular risk of being murdered on the job.

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Workers are most at risk if their jobs involve routine contact with the public or exchange of money. Workers also are at increased risk in situations such as working alone or in small numbers, working late or very early hours, or working in high-crime areas. In 1997, 856 workplace homicides claimed the lives of 149 supervisors or proprietors in retail trade, 77 cashiers, 76 taxicab drivers, 67 police officers, and 43 security guards, among other victims. Each murder shattered and frightened families, colleagues, and co-workers.

Can It Be Prevented?

Yes, each workplace must be assessed individually to determine risk and identify effective protective measures – no single strategy will prevent violence in every workplace.

Tips for Scripts

  • INFORM viewers that work-related homicides and assaults can be prevented – individual workplaces can be evaluated for risk factors, and appropriate, practical measures can be taken to protect workers.
  • ENCOURAGE viewers to improve safety in the workplace. Measures may include: bullet-proof barriers in taxicabs, gas stations, convenience stores, and banks; modifications to retail trade establishments to ensure good visibility of the cash exchange area from outside the store through good lighting; and posted policies on workers’ access to only small amounts of cash.
  • REMIND parents to talk to their teen children about their job tasks, safety training, hours and store closing practices, and to know the state laws about youth workers.
  • INFORM viewers that teen workers and workers over age 65 are at greatest risk of being murdered on the job.

Case Examples

  1. A taxicab driver, working hard to support his family, accepts his dispatcher’s request to pick up a last fare after midnight. Shortly afterwards, responding to a call from a residential area, police find the driver dead from a gunshot wound in the back of the head, his cab vandalized. The murderers are never apprehended.
  2. 42-year-old woman routinely staffs the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift by herself at the convenience store. One morning, alone in the store, she is confronted by a man with a handgun. He pushes her toward the cash register and shouts at her to open the drawer. Although she complies, the assailant strikes her on the side of the head with the butt of the gun. He snatches a handful of bills from the drawer and flees, leaving her dazed and bleeding on the floor.
  • Page last reviewed: September 15, 2017
  • Page last updated: September 15, 2017
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