Nearly 2 million Americans are the victims of violence in the workplace each year, and many other cases go unreported, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Here’s what you should know about the dangers you may face at work and what you can do to protect yourself.
Prevalence of Workplace Deaths From Violence
A total of 397 people were killed in workplaces across the country in 2013, a 16 percent drop from the year before, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. At the same time there were 270 suicides, an increase of 8 percent, according to the most recent statistics.
Overall, deaths have averaged 700 per year from 1992 to 2012, with the highest number of homicides, 1,080, occurring in 1994, according to government data.
To put this in perspective: there are at least 115 million working Americans, out of a population of 315 million.
Eighty percent of those killed were shot to death while 47 percent of the suicides were also from shootings, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.
Homicide is the leading cause of death for women in the workplace.
What to Do if You're Worried
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will work with small businesses to help them identify hazards at their worksites. Businesses can contact the administration’s free and confidential on-site consolation service.
Employees should report acts of violence or potential acts of violence right way to appropriate authorities, and cooperate fully with any investigations, the U.S. Department of Labor recommends.
Workers who are worried about serious hazards can also file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace.
Employees who raise concerns are protected under the law from retaliation.
How to Minimize Risk
Research has identified some factors that can increase your risk, according to OSHA. Among them: working where alcohol is served, alone or in isolated areas or late at night. Delivery drivers, public service workers, health care professionals and customer service agents are also more at risk than other professionals.
The risk of assault can be minimized if employers take precautions, OSHA says. The agency recommends establishing a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence that covers all workers, patients, clients, visitors and contractors. All workers should know that all claims of workplace violence will be investigated.