The 2014 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Release from the US Department of Labor dropped
earlier this year, highlighting some concerning numbers relating to deaths in the US workplace.
In 2014, the US saw a total of 4,679 fatal work injuries, up 2% from 2013. That’s 3.3 people per
100,000 full-time workers. Some of the more substantial increases were a 17% increase in the
mining sector and a 14% increase in agriculture.
Perhaps the most shocking number in this report was the revelation that the fourth most common
cause of death in the workplace was a homicide, accounting for 403 people in 2014, making up 9% of
all workplace deaths. Of these 403 lives, 32% were lost as a result of a domestic dispute
The other sad thing about this “shocking number” is that it is, unfortunately, not that shocking.
These statistics have remained relatively unchanged from those of the previous year. In fact, this
trend has been consistent for some time now, and will very likely remain so.
In response to these figures, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has advised
workplaces to “establish a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence. This policy should cover
all workers, patients, clients, visitors, contractors, and anyone else who may come in contact with
Apart from having policies accessible and available to all employees, perhaps the most powerful
change employers can introduce is to make it both easy and desirable to report incidents. In
situations where workplace violence is quite prevalent, it’s not uncommon for violent incidents to go
completely unreported. The reasons behind this are complicated, but not hard to understand.
Workers resist reporting violent incidents due to:
- Fear of further repercussions from the offending parties
- Fear of loss of reputation with colleagues
- Uncertainty of what constitutes a real incident and what is considered ok
- Uncertainty of how the response will be met by management
And a whole host of other personal reasons.
For many people, violence in the workplace is inconceivable but in workplaces where it is endemic, very often this is a result of a poor culture around violence and safety.
Reducing these numbers won’t be a short road, but if management makes the policies and
repercussions for workplace violence clear and accessible if they make reporting easy and
encouraged, and if they invest time and energy into creating a culture around safety, then they’ll be
taking their first steps.
And as always, keep safe out there.
By Christopher Notley-Smith at donesafe.com
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