Risk Factors

Some of the common risk factors for workers who could be affected by workplace violence are as follows:

  • • Contact with the public
  • • Exchange of money
  • • Delivery of passengers, goods, or services
  • • Having a mobile workplace such as a taxi or police cruiser
  • • Working with unstable or volatile persons in health care, social service, or criminal justice settings
  • • Working alone or in small numbers
  • • Working late at night or during early morning hours
  • • Working in high-crime areas
  • • Guarding valuable property or possessions
  • • Working in community-based settings

Risk factors may be viewed from the standpoint of (1) the environment, (2) administrative controls, or (3) behavior strategies.

Prevention Strategies and Security

Usually, there are three main areas that must be considered when looking at attempts to provide security and safety for the workforce due to violent occurrences within and without the workplace. These strategies are a good starting point.

Environmental Design

Commonly implemented cash-handling policies in retail settings include procedures such as using locked drop safes, carrying small amounts of cash, and posting signs and printing notices that limited cash is available. It may also be useful to explore the feasibility of cashless transactions in taxicabs and retail settings through the use of debit or credit cards, especially late at night. These approaches can be used in any setting where cash is currently exchanged between workers and customers.

Physical separation of workers from customers, clients, and the public through the use of bullet-resistant barriers or enclosures has been proposed for retail settings, such as gas stations and convenience stores, hospital emergency departments, and social service agency claims areas. The height and depth of the counters (with or without bullet-resistant barriers) are also important considerations in protecting workers, since they introduce physical distance between workers and potential attackers. Nonetheless, consideration must be given to the continued ease of conducting business: a safety device that increases frustration for workers, customers, clients, or patients may be self-defeating. Visibility and lighting are also important environmental design considerations. Making high-risk areas visible to more people and installing good external lighting should decrease the risk of workplace assaults.

Access to and egress from the workplace are also important areas to assess. The number of entrances and exits, the ease with which nonemployees can gain access to work areas because doors are unlocked, and the number of areas where potential attackers can hide are issues that should be addressed. These issues have implications for the design of buildings and parking areas, landscaping, and the placement of garbage areas, outdoor refrigeration areas, and other storage facilities that workers must use during a work shift.

Numerous security devices may reduce the risk of assaults against workers and facilitate the identification and apprehension of perpetrators. These include closed-circuit cameras, alarms, two-way mirrors, card-key access systems, panic-bar doors locked from the outside only, and trouble lights or geographic locating devices in taxicabs and other mobile workplaces. Personal protective equipment such as body armor has been used effectively by public safety personnel to mitigate the effects of workplace violence. For example, the lives of more than 1,800 police officers have been saved by Kevlar vests.

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