Each year about 2 million Americans claim to experience violence in the workplace, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Employers and authorities recognize this is a serious issue; however, "Campus Safety" magazine reports that workplace violence is often misunderstood because it is viewed too broadly. Violence usually falls into four categories outlined by OSHA and California's occupational health and safety magazine, "Cal-OSHA Reporter."
Worker versus co-worker violence gets the most public attention. It includes verbal abuse, intimidating gestures and harassment. Some employees throw things and damage their colleagues' property. Others threaten bodily harm and may follow through with physical violence. Worker versus co-worker threats are most prevalent among large employee populations, particularly when employees work closely with others under stressful circumstances, says "Campus Safety."
Workplace threats are often posed by criminal outsiders. For example, people working on military bases or in legislative buildings may be subject to bomb threats or mail tainted with poisons. Robbery is a more common example, which mostly affects people who interact with the public while handling items of value. Cashiers, tellers and delivery personnel face elevated risks of these threats. OSHA warns that working alone, in high-crime areas or during late nights and early morning hours also increases the risks.
Client versus employee threats are incidents involving a customer or client who becomes violent during the normal course of business, explains the Workplace Violence report distributed by the "Cal-OSHA Reporter." Perpetrators can be willing clients, such as those seeking health care, public transportation or social services, or unwilling clients such as prisoners and psychiatric patients. For some employees, the risks, which include verbal abuse, assault and battery and homicide, may be constant and even routine, says the report.
Personal Relationship Threats
Domestic violence gets a category all its own because of its "insidious nature," notes the Workplace Violence report. Victims in this category are most likely to be women and the perpetrators are generally not co-workers or customers of the company where the violence occurs. This is a type of violence that spilsl over into the workplace, where hostile domestic partners may target and harass, stalk or sexually assault their victims. Having work areas that are easily accessible to outsiders increases risks to employees.
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