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Workplace Violence in Massachusetts Leading On-the-Job Killer in 2011

More employees were killed by on-the-job violence in Massachusetts than by transportation accidents in 2011, which has traditionally been the leading killer of employees nationwide.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports19 employees were killed by workplace violence in Massachusetts last year, compared to the 17 who died in traffic accidents. Only New York City, the District of Columbia and Delaware join Massachusetts in reporting more workplace deaths by violence than by transportation incidents.
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Our Boston workers’ compensation attorneys understand workplace violence has become a high-profile work-safety concern in the wake of ongoing media reports about shootings at workplaces, universities and other public places. However, the government’s definition also includes violent death caused by animals and other episodes of workplace violence not readily considered when we think of these cases, including suicides and convenience store robberies that result in a fatal shooting.

Nationwide, 780 workers were killed by violence in the workplace last year, including 458 homicides and 242 suicides. Another 37 people died as a result of an animal- or insect-related incident. Of the 375 fatal events involving female employees, a male spouse or domestic partner was responsible in about 40 percent of cases. In fact, homicide is now the leading cause of death for women in the workplace.

Robbers were the assailant in about one-third of all fatal attacks on male employees — relatives accounted for less than 2 percent of assailants in such cases.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration continues to push employers to do more to protect employees from violence in the workplace. The issue goes far beyond those who are killed: Nearly 2 million American workers report being the victim of workplace violence each year.

In 2009, a total of 572,000 nonfatal violent crimes were reported in the workplace against victims over the age of 16, which represents about 25 percent of the total according to the National Crime Victimization Survey. Those most at risk were law enforcement officers, security guards and bartenders. Teachers and taxi drivers also faced above-average risks.

In the last 5 years, about 70 percent of workplace homicides were committed by robbers — 21 percent by work associates.

Environmental factors that may increase an employee’s risk of being victimized by violence on the job include working with money, working with unstable people, working alone and working around alcohol.

However, employers are far from helpless and should develop comprehensive programs aimed at keeping employees safe from violence in the workplace, including the establishment of a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to workplace violence.

Yet these incidences are still less likely to be reported to police than violence that occurs outside the workplace. The number one reason given is that the incident was reported to a company official.

Companies have an obligation to be proactive in addressing such risks. When an incident is not properly addressed, it makes it that much more likely violence will reoccur and other employees will be victimized.

If you are injured on the job in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your workers’ compensation claim– 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:
Work Accidents in 2011 – Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Attorneys Review Trends and Highlights, Published by Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, Oct. 2, 2012.