Sunday, April 28, 2013

Again, With The Fear And Loathing

If the news isn't bad enough you can always pretend it is...

Seems a good many good-hearted folks have been reading articles based on (or copied from) a press release from the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Justice Programs (OJP) titled Workplace Violence Rates Higher for Public Employees.

A concerned reader at the LinkedIn ASIS International group wrote:

SHRM reporter expands upon the increased risk of violence in the workplace. What steps have you taken in the private and public sector to address this? 
Statistics suggest that there has been a decrease in violence in the private sector, while the public sector has seen an increase. This certainly suggests that we should compare their approaches to the mitigation of violence in the workplace. While we would all like to suggest that these changes are due to the private sector embracing the publicized standards, there may likely be other factors that impact these events in the public sector.”

The complete report, “Workplace Violence Against Government Employees, 1994-2011,” deserves to be read in detail. As you can see above, the charts in it tell a very important story, one that seems to be escaping the writers of many headlines and the readers of many press releases.

In 1994, the rate of violent victimization in the workplace of government employees was 99.2 per 1,000. In 2011 it was 18.0 per 1,000. This represents a reduction in workplace violence of 82%!

In 1994 the rate of violent victimization of private-sector employees was 18.5 per 1,000. In 2011 it was 5.2 per 1,000. This is a reduction in on the job violence of 72%

There's even more to the story. 

“The higher rate of workplace violence in the public sector was due in part to the high rate of violence against law enforcement or security employees, which accounted for about 56 percent of workplace violence against government workers from 2002 through 2011.” 

That's right, over half of the on the job assaults are against law enforcement and security personnel. What happens when you assault a cop? You are neutralized, apprehended, arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and jailed...and the incident is added to the national workplace violence statistics.

As defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) the category “Violence and other injuries by persons or animals” (dba “workplace violence”) includes law enforcement and security personnel killed by strangers engaged in violent criminal activity. These are the Type I offenders. Homicide by Type I offenders are scarcely mentioned in the ASIS/SHRM ANSI Workplace Violence Standard. They are addressed in detail in OSHA 3153 "Recommendations for Workplace Violence Prevention Programs in Late-Night Retail Establishments." Otherwise, this sort of workplace violence – cops and guards, cabbies and convenience store clerks, being killed and injured while mixing it up with bad guys while on the job – is addressed primarily in the officer survival and robbery-homicide prevention literature.

What most people think of when they hear – or use – the term “workplace violence” is violence by clients and customers (Type II), coworkers and former coworkers (Type III), and personal relations (Type IV). Together these categories comprised 130 fatalities nationwide in 2011. That’s 17% of the total.

Included in the unfortunate tally of workplace deaths in 2011 were 43 “unintentional and intention unknown” deaths and 37 deaths due to "animals and insects" (6% and 5% of the total, respectively).

Type I offenses, line of duty killings and robbery-homicides resulted in 325 deaths, or 42% of the total.

Suicide at work – which gets short shrift in most model WPV policies but is counted in the statistics used to promote them nonetheless – was responsible for 242 deaths. The next time you want to do something about workplace violence, try to remember that in 2011 nearly a third of all violent deaths at work (31%) were self-inflicted.