Violence in American workplace epidemic: Survey

One-third of workers concerned about personal safety
||Last Updated: 02/16/2012

More than one-half (52 per cent) of Americans employed outside their home have witnessed, heard about or experienced a violent event or event that can lead to violence at their workplace, according to a survey conducted by AlliedBarton Security Services. These events include open hostility, abusive language or threats and can escalate to significant physical harm to someone by another person.

In addition, 28 per cent of workers report a violent event or one that can lead to violence happened to them at their current place of employment or they have been personally affected by this type of event, found the survey of 1,030 adults.

Overall, 12 per cent have witnessed, heard about or are aware of an incidence of significant physical harm to another person, and five per cent have had this happen to them or have been personally affected by this type of incident.

"Workplace violence often starts as verbal assaults or harassment and can escalate into threatening behavior, bullying, physical assaults and even, in some instances, deadly encounters," said Bill Whitmore, president and CEO of AlliedBarton Services and author of Potential: Workplace Violence Prevention and Your Organizational Success. "With the significant increase in unemployment in the past several years and the downturn in the economy, there is every reason to believe that these incidents may increase."

One-third (34 per cent) of Americans employed outside the home are very or somewhat concerned with their personal safety, found the survey. However, 29 per cent of workers who witnessed, heard about or experienced workplace violence did not report the incident or take other action.

The most common action taken was reporting the incident to a supervisor or human resources, which was done by 62 per cent of workers. Only 21 per cent contacted security, 14 per cent reported the incident to the police and 12 per cent called a confidential employer-provided number.

Almost all (94 per cent) of employers take some action as a result of workplace violence, the most likely being a meeting with employees. However, only 53 per cent take disciplinary actions and fewer implement training for employees (45 per cent) or supervisors (35 per cent).

Changes to physical environments (31 per cent) or revisions to company policies (22 per cent) were even less common, found the survey. Increasing security through the involvement of police or other authorities or contracting with a security provider were the actions least likely to be taken as a result of workplace violence.

Workplace violence appears to be a significant contributor for workers in seeking a new position, said AlliedBarton. Twenty-eight per cent of those who experienced or are aware of workplace violence are looking for or are seriously considering looking for a new job. By contrast, only 17 per cent of those who have not had this experience are considering new employment.

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