Study Reveals Lights, no Solo Workers, Reduce Workplace Homicide

Homicide is the second leading cause of death on the job for U.S. workers, and a new study examines the environmental and administrative factors that can help reduce murder in the workplace.

Homicide is the second leading cause of death on the job for U.S. workers. Government agencies such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommend that employers prevent violence against workers by adopting interventions originally designed to prevent robbery, but the effectiveness of these interventions is not known.

A group of researchers from the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, conducted a study to investigate the effectiveness of interventions aimed at preventing workplace homicide.

The researchers, who published their findings in the February 27 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, examined North Carolina workplaces where a total of 105 workers were killed between Jan. 1, 1994, and March 31, 1998. The workplaces were identified through a statewide medical examiner system.

The researchers found that among environmental interventions, strong and consistent reductions in the risk of a worker being killed on the job were associated with bright exterior lighting. The most effective administrative intervention was a policy that prevented employees from working alone during nighttime hours.

"We found evidence suggesting that eliminating solo work at night could reduce the risk of homicide for workers," wrote researchers. "Keeping doors closed and using bright exterior lighting or combinations of administrative interventions also appear to be beneficial, but there was no evidence of effectiveness for a number of other recommended measures," such as the use of video cameras or bulletproof glass, or posting signs saying the business keeps limited cash on hand or that employees do not have access to the safe.

According to the Department of Labor, homicides rose 4 percent in 2000 to 677, the first increase in six years.

The study was conducted by Dana Loomis, PhD; Stephen W. Marshall, PhD; Susanne H. Wolf, RN, MPH; Carol W. Runyan, PhD; and John D. Butts, MD.

by Sandy Smith (ssmith@penton.com)

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