Workplace Violence Prevention programs that do not consider harassment in all forms and threats are unlikely to be effective. While agreeing on that broader definition of the problem, specialists have also come to a consensus that workplace violence falls into four broad categories;

TYPE 1: Violent acts by criminals, who have no other connection with the workplace, but enter to commit robbery or another crime.

TYPE 2: Violence directed at employees by customers, clients, patients, students, inmates, or any others for whom an organization provides services.

TYPE 3: Violence against coworkers, supervisors, or managers by a present or former employee.

TYPE 4: Violence committed in the workplace by someone who doesn’t work there but has a personal relationship with an employee—an abusive spouse or domestic partner.

Type 1 includes violence by criminals otherwise unconnected to the workplace accounts for the clear majority—nearly 80 percent—of workplace homicides. In these incidents, the motive is usually theft, and in a great many cases, the criminal is carrying a gun or other weapon, increasing the likelihood that the victim will be killed or seriously wounded. This type of violence falls heavily on occupational groups whose jobs make them vulnerable: taxi drivers (the job that carries by far the highest risk of being murdered), late-night retail or gas station clerks, and others who are on duty at night, who work in isolated locations or dangerous neighborhoods, and who carry or have access to cash.

Preventive strategies for Type 1 include: an emphasis on physical security measures, special employer policies, and employee training. In fact, it is suggested that one of the reasons for the decline in workplace homicides since the early 1990s is due to the security measures put in place by businesses that may be vulnerable to this type of activity.

Because the outside criminal has no other contact with the workplace, the interpersonal aspects of violence prevention that apply to the other three categories are normally not relevant to Type 1 incidents. The response after a crime has occurred will involve conventional law enforcement procedures for investigating, finding and arresting the suspect, and collecting evidence for prosecution. For that reason, even though

Type 1 events represent a large share of workplace violence (homicides in particular) and should in no way be minimize, the rest of this paper will focus mainly on the remaining types

Type 2 cases typically involve assaults on an employee by a customer, patient, student or someone else receiving a service. In general, the violent acts occur as workers are performing their normal tasks. In some occupations, dealing with dangerous people is inherent in the job, as in the case of a police officer, correctional officer, security guard, or mental health worker. For other occupations, violent reactions by a customer or client are unpredictable, triggered by an argument, anger at the quality of service or denial of service, delays, or some other precipitating event.

Employees experiencing the largest number of Type 2 assaults are those in healthcare occupations—nurses, as well as doctors, nurses and aides who deal with psychiatric patients; members of emergency medical response teams; and hospital employees working in admissions, emergency rooms, and crisis or acute care units.

Type 3 and Type 4 incidents involving violence by past or present employees and acts committed by domestic abusers or arising from other personal relationships that follow an employee into the workplace—will be the types most extensively treated in this paper. Violence in these categories is no less or more dangerous or damaging than any other violent act. But when the violence comes from an employee or someone close to an employee, there is a much greater chance that some warning sign will have reached the employer in the form of observable behavior. That knowledge, along with the appropriate prevention programs, can at the very least mitigate the potential for violence or prevent it altogether.

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