A recently-fired employee of a Connecticut beer distributor guns down eight former co-workers and then kills himself. A worker fired from a sign company in Minnesota shoots eight employees (four fatally) and then himself. An irate employee of a business services company in Illinois shoots the company's CEO and then himself.
While incidents like these receive extensive media coverage, they are not typical acts of workplace violence.
According to a report issued by the NCCI in 2012, most workplace homicides are committed by a robber, not a rampaging worker.
The report summarizes data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on workplace incidents that occurred between 1993 and 2009. It also incorporates statistics produced by the NCCI regarding workers compensation violence claims.
Workplace Violence Rates are Down
The BLS tracks the number of homicides and assaults that occur in the workplace each year. It then compiles an annual rate (per $100,000 workers) for each type of event. Between 1993 and 2009 the rates of both homicides and assaults in the workplace declined. Workplace homicides dropped 59% while assaults dropped by 37%. The rates of homicide and aggravated assault in the general population also declined (by 47% and 40% respectively) during the same period.
Who is Most Vulnerable to Homicide?
The BLS calculates homicide rates for specific occupations. The NCCI's report shows that workers in the occupations listed below were the most prone to homicide in 2009.
The workers are listed in order of vulnerability (beginning with the most vulnerable).
- service station attendants
- taxi drivers and chauffeurs
- security guards and gaming surveillance officers
- lodging managers
- first-line supervisors and managers of retail businesses
Workers in these occupations are vulnerable to robbery, and robbery can lead to homicide. Most of these workers are men. Thus, men are much more likely than women to be killed on the job in a homicide. In 2009 85% of workplace homicide victims were men. Moreover, many barbers, taxi drivers, security guards etc. are over age 35. Consequently, workplace homicides affect older workers on a disproportionate basis.
The BLS also provides statistics on workplace homicide rates for specific industries. In 2009 the three industries with the highest workplace homicide rates were retail trade, transportation, and leisure and hospitality.
As noted previously, most workplace homicides are perpetrated by robbers. In 2009 79% of workplace homicides were the result of a robbery. Of the remaining homicides, 9% were committed by customers and 14% were committed by co-workers.
Between 1993 and 2009 workplace injuries that resulted in lost time fell by 57%. During that time period workplace assaults dropped by 27%. Thus, workplace assaults accounted for a greater percentage of lost time injuries in 2009 than in 1993. In 1993 .9% of loss time injuries were caused by assaults. By 2009 that percentage had increased to 1.6%. Yet, these percentages are very small. In 2009 only a tiny portion of lost time work injuries were caused by assaults.
Most Assault Victims are Women
While a majority of workplace homicide victims are men, the reverse is true for workplace assaults. Most targets of workplace assailants are women.
Assaults typically occur in female-dominated occupations and industries like healthcare services. According to the NCCI, most assaults in the healthcare industry occur in nursing and residential care facilities. The perpetrators are usually patients.
Other workers vulnerable to assault include healthcare practitioners, personal care workers, sales workers, and community and social service workers. Most assaults that result in lost work time occur in health services and social assistance industries.
Violence Accounts for a Very Small Portion of Claims
The NCCI's report shows that criminal acts (homicides and assaults) in the workplace are ten times more likely than other causes of injury to result in a fatality. Injuries caused by criminals are also likely to involve large indemnity (disability) payments. Of all types of workplace injuries, criminal acts generate the second largest average indemnity payment (after vehicle accidents).
While these numbers may seem alarming, it's important to remember that crimes account for a very small portion of workplace injuries. In 2009 homicides accounted for only 11% of workplace fatalities. Less than 2% of workplace injuries that resulted in lost time were caused by assaults.