BLS Survey Provides Insight on Workplace Violence Frequency, Policies

According to the results of a survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 70 percent of U.S. employers that participated in the survey did not have a formal workplace violence program or policy – despite the fact that nearly 5 percent of all employers surveyed had an incident of workplace violence within 12 months prior to completing the assessment.

Under an interagency agreement with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), BLS surveyed employers regarding their policies and training on workplace violence prevention, as little information previously existed from the employer perspective.

The survey found that among private-industry employers that reported having a workplace violence program or policy, 82 percent reported that their programs addressed co-worker violence. Customer or client violence was the next most frequent subject of private-industry policies or programs (71 percent), followed by criminal violence (53 percent) and domestic violence (44 percent).

(Editor's note: "criminal violence" refers to when the perpetrator has no relationship to the business or its employees and is committing a crime in conjunction with the violence.)

When surveying state governments, BLS found that these employers also paid close attention to co-worker and customer/client violence the most, just as the private industries. But 66 percent of them addressed domestic violence while 53 percent addressed criminal violence, which was the opposite in private industry.

Half of the Largest Businesses Reported an Incident of Violence

While 5 percent of all establishments, including state and local governments, had a violent incident, half of the largest establishments (employing 1,000 or more workers) reported an incident.

Thirty-two percent of the state governments surveyed reported experiencing some type of workplace violence, compared with 15 percent of local governments and fewer than 5 percent of private-industry employers, according to BLS.

BLS said that of the establishments that reported an incident of workplace violence within the 12 months prior to completing the survey, about a third reported that the incident had a negative impact on their work force.

The great majority of those establishments did not change their workplace violence prevention procedures after the incident, BLS found. Almost 9 percent of those businesses had no program or policy addressing workplace violence.

Survey Will Help NIOSH with its Ongoing Research

The voluntary survey was designed to allow characterization of how the issue of workplace violence is addressed in U.S. workplaces and to provide researchers with information to develop educational interventions to improve workplace safety. Findings are reported in detail on the BLS Web site.

"We appreciate the excellent work of BLS in conducting the survey with its widely respected methodology, analyzing the results and providing new data to fill a significant gap in the existing literature," said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. "These new data will help us greatly in planning and conducting our ongoing research to help prevent violence in workplaces."

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