Stop Workplace ViolenceActive shooter incidents at schools, healthcare offices and other workplaces that are dominated by women get the headlines but there is a range of workplace violence that affects women.

According the AFL-CIO:

  • In 2000, 13,935 women had injuries or illnesses involving days away from work that resulted from assaults and violent acts (Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS]).
  • Homicide is the second-leading cause of fatal occupational injuries for women, after traffic accidents. Thirty-one percent of women who die at work are killed as a result of an assault or violent act. In 2003, 119 women died as a result of an assault or violent act in the workplace (BLS).
  • 12.7 percent of all female violent crimes were committed while the victim was working or on duty. These acts of nonfatal violence include rape and sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault and simple assault (BLS).
  • Some 36,500 rapes and sexual assaults occur annually in the workplace. In 80 percent of these incidents, the victim was female (NCVS).
  • Nurses experience workplace crime at a rate 72 percent higher than medical technicians and at more than twice the rate of other medical fieldworkers (NCVS).
  • Professional (social worker/psychiatrist) and custodial care providers in the mental health care field were victimized while working or on duty at rates more than three times those in the medical field (NCVS).
  • Junior high school teachers have a rate of victimization in the workplace similar to convenience store clerks—54.2 versus 53.9 per 1,000 workers (NCVS).

The data on workplace violence is scattered and inadequate to understand the extent of the problem. Many acts of nonfatal violence and threats in the workplace go unreported because there is no coordinated data-collection system to process the information. More than 936,000 of the nearly 2 million workplace crimes committed yearly were not reported to the police. Rape and sexual assaults were reported to the police at an even lower rate of 24 percent.

Most incidents of violence fall into four categories:

Four Types of Workplace Violence

  1. Violence committed by clients or patients.
  2. Violence associated with robbery or other crimes.
  3. Violence among co-workers or managers.
  4. Domestic violence that spills over into the workplace.

The AFL-CIO suggests that workers contact their union or OSHA to address issues of workplace violence but many small medical offices or private schools don’t really have a strong union presence to advocate for better safety measures.

This lack of union (or other collective) representation is true in almost all of the top female-dominated professions. Here are the top industries dominated by women with their female percentage.

  1. Nursing (92%)
  2. Primary Education (82%)
  3. Communication, including Public Relations (72%)
  4. Human Resources (67%)
  5. Accounting (62%)
  6. Veterinarians (61.2%)
  7. Psychologists (68.8%)
  8. Social and community service managers (69.4%)
  9. Baby sitters, Nannies and Day care centres
  10. Domestic Cleaners and Housekeepers
  11. Hairdressers
  12. Librarian

Many of these female-dominated sectors have seen more than their share of violence.

Our goal at Soteria Safety By Design is to create environments that are safe for all workers by addressing the physical elements of your workplace as well as training your team to deal with all sorts of workplace violence threats.

Crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) addresses human behavior as impacted by the physical environment. Environmental design through infrastructure and landscape architecture encompasses the use, design and/or removal of objects for the purpose of creating a landscape which can provide or restrict movement or visibility.

We use concepts of natural surveillance and access control to minimize workplace violence threat. Natural surveillance is the capacity to see what’s occurring without having to take special measures. Clear direct views, such as those provided by windows, provide natural surveillance. Access control is the capacity to limit who can gain entry to a facility, and how. A school with dozens of unsecured exterior doors cannot hope to control comings and goings.

Without access control, a much greater emphasis must be placed on surveillance, territoriality, school climate and security staffing. Both natural surveillance and access control provide a more secure environment. Main office staff and administrators are the most important players when it comes to school safety.

Soteria Safety By Designs target hardens your workplace to address threats both inside and out. Target hardening is the strengthening of a building as a method of protecting both the building and the lives within it in the event of an attack. There are three aspects to Target Hardening:

  • Territorial Reinforcement: Physical barriers, elevation changes, street/driveway speed reduction, natural landscape (trees/shrubs), parking restrictions;
  • Interior Hardening: Locking mechanisms, security cameras/surveillance procedures, alarms & notification procedures, security patrols, designated School Resource Officer (SRO);
  • Maintenance: Continuous monitoring, mending, replacing, cultivating vegetation, pruning shrubs, and regularly testing all electronic equipment.

But for a lot of workplace violence, the best prevention is a keeping a sharp eye on your workforce to spot the trouble brewing before it boils over. Here are some of the top danger signals:

  • Increased use of alcohol and/or illegal drugs
  • Unexplained increase in absenteeism; vague physical complaints
  • Noticeable decrease in attention to appearance and hygiene
  • Depression/withdrawal
  • Increased severe mood swings
  • Noticeably unstable, emotional responses
  • Explosive outbursts of anger or rage without provocation
  • Suicidal; comments about “putting things in order”
  • Behavior which is suspect of paranoia, (“everybody is against me”)
  • Deterioration in quality of work
  • Missed assignments or appointments
  • Continual seeking of unusual accommodations (extensions, postponed examinations)
  • Essays or papers that have a theme of hopelessness, social isolation, rage, or despair

Additionally those women (and men) who suffer from domestic violence (which frequently spills over into the workplace) will sometimes display:

  • Bruises or injuries without explanation or no feasible explanation
  • Excessive tardiness
  • Frequent phone calls from partner
  • Intense startle reaction
  • Eating or sleeping problems
  • Preoccupation/lack of concentration
  • Difficulty making decisions

There are a number of ways to reach out to a coworker whom you believe might be the victim of domestic violence.

When the abuser is on the payroll, things can get dicier. A wall of silence often descends. Many workplace violence situations were sparked by perceived abuse by fellow employees or supervisors.

In these abusive situations, a workplace culture change is as important, even more important, than deciding which surveillance cameras you buy.

We at Soteria Safety By Design feel that the two most important pieces of safety equipment are a keen eye and a kind ear. Let us help you keep your workplace safe.

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