Risk Factors

Workplace Violence Statistics (BLS annually, 1987-92)

  • Nearly 1 million violent victimizations occurred while victims were working or on duty
  • These victimizations resulted in almost 160,000 injuries
  • Employees or former employees, with a history of assaults or who exhibit belligerent, intimidating or threatening behavior
  • Workplace violence cost half a million employees 1,751,100 days of work each year, an average of 3.5 days per crime.
  • Lost wages were over 55 million annually, not including sick leave.
  • Men were more likely than women to experience a violent crime in the workplace
  • 30% of workplace violence victims are Federal, State or local government employees, yet government
  • employees make up only 18% of the total work force Robbery or other crimes were the motive for 67% of workplace violence homicides
  • 45% of violent victimizations resulting in days lost from work were caused by health care patients.
  • 123,000 violent assaults against teachers are committed each year
  • 341,000 secondary and elementary teachers were threatened with injury by a student at their school.
  • Over half of all victimizations at work were not reported.

Risk Factors For Workplace Violence

There are a number of factors that have been shown to contribute to the risk of violence in the workplace. Risk factors may be broken down into:

  1. Environmental
  2. Work practices
  3. Provider/perpetrator Profile

OSHA has identified the following environments, activities or client profiles, when present in the workplace, to increase the potential risk of violence:

  • Exchange of money.
  • Working alone at night and during early morning hours.
  • Availability of valued items, e.g., money and jewelry.
  • Availability of prescription drugs.

Working with patients, clients, customers or students known or suspected to have a history of violence. Guarding valuable property or possessions. Employees or former employees, with a history of assaults or who exhibit belligerent, intimidating or threatening behavior.

Employees who have been the object of belligerent, intimidating or threatening behavior from family members or significant others.

An important risk factor at hospitals, psychiatric facilities and for emergency responders is the carrying of weapons by patients and their family and friends. Wasserberger et al (1989) reported that 25% of major trauma patients treated in emergency rooms carried weapons. Goetz et al (1991) found that 17.3% of psychiatric patients searched were carrying weapons. Community service workers, home health care providers and emergency responders may be at an even higher risk due to the lack of environmental controls during patient contacts.

Frequency of exposure to and interaction with patients, students or clients with a history of violence are known factors which increase vulnerability. Work in high crime areas, at isolated work stations or working alone also increase the risk of assaults. Long waits in emergency rooms and/or the inability to obtain needed services are seen as contributing factors.