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Report Says Workplace Homicides Have Dropped Steadily Since Mid-90s

January 24, 2012
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Workplace homicides "are not crimes of passion committed by disgruntled coworkers and spouses, but rather result from robberies." And the majority of workplace assaults are committed by healthcare patients, says a new report.

The report, Violence in the Workplace, examines the many aspects of work-related homicides and injuries due to assaults, and extends a series of studies published by NCCI on workplace violence with three years of additional data through 2009. For the most part, previously observed patterns and key findings are largely unchanged.

Findings from the report include:

  • Work-related homicides and injuries due to workplace assaults remain well below levels observed in the mid-1990s. This is consistent with the patterns of declines in rates of homicide and aggravated assaults reported for the country as a whole, although workplace homicides have declined more than the homicide rate generally, while workplace assaults have fallen in line with declines in aggravated assaults overall.
  • Homicides account for 11% of workplace fatalities. Nonfatal assaults by persons make up less than 2% of total nonfatal lost work-time (LWT) injuries and illnesses, but that share has been increasing.
  • Homicides due to robberies and similar criminal acts fell markedly over the late 1990s (but still make up 69% of all homicides), due largely to the decline in the homicide incidence rate for taxi drivers. The work-related homicide rates for these workers are now comparable to those for high-risk retail workers such as service station attendants and barbers.
  • In contrast, homicides committed by work associates (a Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS] category made up of both coworkers and customers) have increased to about 21%. Interestingly, this reflects an increase in violent acts by customers to 9%. Despite the headlines, the share of workplace homicides due to coworkers has remained steady at about 12%, and the actual number of such homicides has been in the 50 to 60 range in recent years.
  • The decline in the rate of workplace assaults has lagged the steady decline in the rate for all lost work-time injuries and illnesses. This reflects a notable change in the composition of the US workforce and, in particular, the ongoing increase in the share of healthcare workers, who experience remarkably high rates of injuries due to assaults by patients. This is especially common in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. In fact, 61% of all workplace assaults are committed by healthcare patients. For assaults, coworkers make up just 7%, and someone other than a healthcare patient or coworker comprises 23%. The remainder is unspecified.
  • Based on NCCI data, injuries resulting from a crime are more severe than injuries resulting from other causes and more likely to involve a fatality. In contrast, severity for injuries resulting from being struck by a fellow worker or patient is below average.
  • Risk factors linked to an increased likelihood of workplace violence published by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in 1996 are still consistent with the types of occupations and industries at highest risk for workplace violence today.
  • Workplace assaults account for less than 2% of all injuries

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