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The rate of workplace homicides is declining, while the pattern of workplace assault has been “more volatile” and “erratic” on a year-to-year basis. Workplace assault continues to be concentrated in health services, social assistance and personal care occupations, according to a study by the National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc. (NCCI).
Released Sept. 2, 2008, the study is based on 2006 data—the most recent available—from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and from characteristics of claims associated with workplace violence, according to NCCI. The Florida-based organization purports to manage the country’s largest database of workers’ compensation insurance information.
While workplace homicides may get more attention in the media, they accounted for 8.7 percent of workplace fatalities in the private sector. Transportation accidents were the largest cause of workplace fatalities and most were motor vehicle accidents, the study found. Contact with objects and equipment was the second largest cause of workplace fatalities.
Among the findings from the study, the fourth in a series from NCCI:
Workplace assaults have shown less of a decline than have total lost-work-time injuries and illnesses since 1999, but only represent about 1.3 percent of total workplace injuries and illnesses.
The rate pattern has been “erratic,” the report said, pointing out that the rate dropped 18 percent in 2005—the largest decline since 1998—then rose 10 percent in 2006.
Forty percent of the time, workplace assault takes the form of hitting, kicking and beating and for health care workers, this is “reflective of the sometimes-violent nature of nursing home patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and related diseases, as well as hospital patients who may ‘act out’ in ways that result in injuries to their caregivers,” the report noted.
In fact, workers in health care-related fields bear the brunt of assault.
In 2006, slightly more than half of such assaults occurred among those working as nursing/psychiatric and home health aides and healthcare practitioners and in technical occupations, personal care and service, and community and social service positions. The majority of victims were nursing home workers.
Other sectors where employees are vulnerable to assault include protective services and transportation-related occupations (14 percent), retail sales, and maintenance and cleaning occupations (8 percent).
The study cites the following recommendations from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for reducing workplace violence:
Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for HR News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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