Workplace Assaults on the Rise

A new study on workplace violence, sponsored by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), finds that while workplace murder rates have declined, the number of assaults has been rising. The NCCI noted that from 1992 to 1999, the assault rate had been declining until it reached a level of about 16,000 incidents. However, for the last five years this level has ranged from 16,000 and 18,000 while normal workplace injuries continue to decline.Even though workplace assault rates have increased, NCCI said these rates are still significantly lower than the assault rate experienced by the general population.

The report found that 60 percent of all workplace assaults are concentrated in health services, social assistance, and personal care occupations.The NCCI said research at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health uncovered a number of factors that increase the likelihood of workplace violence:

·   Working in health care or social services fields with persons who may tend to be mentally unstable or violent

·   Having contact with the public, especially involving the exchange of money

·   Having a mobile workplace, such as a taxicab or delivery truck

·   Guarding property or possessions

·   Working alone, especially in high-crime areas

The design of the workplace shouldn’t make it easy for a worker to be assaulted. Workers should be physically separated from the general public by installing counters that are high enough and with enough depth to make physical contact impossible. Bullet-resistant barriers can provide additional protection.

Large amounts of cash on premises can create an incentive for assault. To minimize this risk, keep only enough cash on hand to operate efficiently. Use drop safes to store excess cash, and post signs stating that only a limited amount of cash is on site. Wherever possible, install machines that accommodate automatic teller cards, credit or debit cards.

Entrances and exits should be assessed to see how easy it is for the general public to gain access to work areas when doors are left unlocked or propped open. Survey hallways and other recessed areas where attackers can hide. Include refuse areas, outdoor refrigeration areas and other storage facilities that workers must use during a shift in this evaluation. Install security cameras in these places so they can be continually monitored.

Check landscaping to see if bushes provide enough coverage for an attacker to lay in wait and surprise a worker. Evaluate parking lots to determine if they have good lighting and that all parking spaces are visible; not hidden by refuse containers or foliage.

Security technology also reduces the risk for assaults against workers. Such technology includes exterior lighting that illuminates doorways, closed-circuit cameras, silent alarms, two-way mirrors, key-card access systems, and panic-bar equipped doors that lock from the outside only.