Effective security management to prevent all three types of workplace violence events also includes postevent measures such as emergency medical care and debriefing employees about the incident. After a workplace assault occurs, employers should provide postevent trauma counseling to those who desire such intervention to reduce the short- and longterm physical and emotional effects of the incident.
Workplace safety and health hazards affecting employees have traditionally been viewed as arising from unsafe work practices, hazardous industrial conditions, or exposures to harmful chemical, biological, or physical agents, not from violent acts committed by other human beings. Recently, though, employees, as well as supervisors and managers, have become, all too frequently, victims of assaults or other violent acts in the workplace that entail a substantial risk of physical or emotional harm. Many of these assaults result in fatal injury, but an even greater number result in nonfatal injury, or in the threat of injury, which can lead to medical treatment, missed work, lost wages, and decreased productivity.
A single explanation for the increase in workplace violence is not readily available. Some episodes of workplace violence, like robberies of small retail establishments, seem related to the larger societal problems of crime and substance abuse. Other episodes seem to arise more specifically from employment-related problems.
What can be done to prevent workplace violence? Any preventive measure must be based on a thorough understanding of the risk factors associated with the various types of workplace violence. Moreover, even though our understanding of the factors that lead to workplace violence is not perfect, sufficient information is available, which, if utilized effectively, can reduce the risk of workplace violence. However, strong management commitment, and the day-to-day involvement of managers, supervisors, employees, and labor unions, is required to reduce the risk of workplace violence.
Workplace violence has become a serious occupational health problem requiring the combined efforts of employers, employees, labor unions, government, academic researchers, and security professionals. The problem cannot be solved by government alone.
California Department of Labor, Guidelines for Security and Safety of Health Care and Community Service Workers. http://www.ca.gov. Sacramento, CA, March 1998.
United States Department of Health and Human Services: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Violence in the Workplace: Risk Factors and Prevention Strategies (CIB 57). Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services, June 1996.
United States Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics, Annual National Crime Victimization Survey for 1992-1996. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, 1998.
United States Office of Personnel Management, Dealing with Workplace Violence: A Guide for Agency Planners. Washington, DC: US Office of Personnel Management, February 1998.