We have all been hearing that workplace violence is on the rise, especially in healthcare settings where emotions have run higher than normal due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), of the 5,333 fatal workplace injuries that occurred in the United States in 2019, 761 were cases of intentional injury by another person.
As many of us return to in-person and hybrid work arrangements, scanning for the threat of potential incidents of workplace violence will be critical to maintaining a safe environment. But the data is only as good as the information reported. In this article, we’ll cover:
- What constitutes a workplace violence threat
- Why reporting incidents of workplace violence matters
- How to better support security teams for more accurate assessments of which threat signals should be investigated
- What systems can organizations put into place to help capture and triage incidents of workplace violence
Four categories of violence in the workplace
A careful study of workplace violence episodes reveals commonalities between certain groups of incidents. Specifically, researchers define four distinct categories of workplace violence to better understand their causes and aid in their prevention.
Type 1: Criminal intent
Type 1 workplace violence incidents involve individuals or groups of individuals performing criminal acts in the workplace. Unlike the three other types of violence, the Type 1 perpetrators have no relationship with the business. They are not customers, employees, or any other person who has any legitimate reason for being on the premises. This type of workplace violence covers everything from robbery and muggings to far less common incidents like random assaults and terrorism.
Most cases of Type 1 violence involve theft, which is why specific industries suffer higher rates of Type 1 crimes than others. Convenience stores, gas stations, and banks were the site of 11% of all U.S. robberies in 2019 due to their access to cash, while commercial buildings made up another 16.7% because of the presence of high-value goods.
Type 2: Customer/client
Type 2 workplace violence includes any act that a customer or client commits against an employee while the employee is working with them. In a healthcare environment, this consists of a patient and any family on the premises. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, this type of violence is the most commonly experienced category in healthcare settings, per the CDC.
Professionals providing direct care are at a higher risk than any other employee. And incidence rates differ among direct caregivers, depending on their specialty. An emergency room doctor or doctor working in psychiatric care would likely see or experience more violence than a pediatrician at a family clinic.
Type 3: Worker-on-worker
Type 3 workplace violence concerns incidents between co-workers. This category is sometimes called “lateral” or “horizontal” violence, but those terms can be misleading. Type 3 violence often involves a boss and a subordinate, where the former abuses their power over the latter.
This type of violence is also common in healthcare settings because hospital systems have inherent bureaucracies. Head nurses manage other nurses, doctors give orders to nurses, and administrators control advancement opportunities for all employees. This multi-layered power dynamic breeds everything from verbal harassment and bullying to more physical incidents like battery and sexual harassment.
Type 4: Personal relationship
Perpetrators of Type 4 workplace violence have a personal relationship with their victims outside of work. An ex-boyfriend may show up at a victim’s place of work to intimidate, harass, or otherwise embarrass them. A disturbed partner or family member may also show up with more violent intentions.
Type 4 violence disproportionately affects women. Men comprised 91.8% of all workplace fatalities in 2019, but only 7.5% of those were attributed to homicide. Meanwhile, homicide was the cause of around 20% of female fatalities in the workplace.
This type of violence is especially difficult to anticipate and prevent, given the private relationship between the individuals involved. While less common than other types of violence, these incidents can be explosive and severe, resulting in great bodily harm or even fatality for the victims.
Why is it important to report workplace violence incidents?
Companies must implement a visible and strictly enforced reporting mechanism to maintain a safer culture. Employees need to see that those in charge take such incidents seriously. Just as importantly, workers need to know that it’s safe to report them when they do occur. Fear of retaliation prevents many from reporting Type 3 incidents, especially when the perpetrator holds authority over the victim.
Unchecked threats of workplace violence create a toxic work environment that harms workers and customers or patients alike. Ever-present violent threats negatively impact employees mentally and endanger them physically.
Looking at healthcare settings as an example, pharmacists’, surgeons’, and nurses’ jobs are all difficult enough to perform in a safe and calm environment. When the threat of verbal or physical violence always hangs over their heads, these workers cannot perform to their full potential — which negatively affects patients’ health.
Adopting a safe and healthy work culture, regardless of your industry or sector, needs both a top-down and bottom-up approach. Those in charge of your organization’s security should:
- Create data-informed security plans, like investing in physical security, to limit the possibility of external actors making their way onto the premises and creating havoc.
- Create obligatory training resources to educate workers on violence prevention, detection, and reporting best practices.
- Develop an emergency response plan and practice plans and protocols with employees.
- In a healthcare setting: Devise protocols for dealing with difficult or dangerous patients that prioritize caregiver safety without sacrificing the quality of care.
Without the ability to easily capture data on the breadth of incidents happening, as well as a threat assessment framework like WAVR-21, so you can evaluate the data as well as any threat signals, creating a safer environment for employees will feel more like a game of whack-a-mole than a proactively secure workplace.
How a threat protection solution can help to detect and prevent workplace violence
At Resolver, we believe that a comprehensive security risk management software solution — that also covers threat protection — can make a meaningful impact on employee safety. Anonymous reporting channels like hotlines and easy-to-use portals can help increase incident reporting while also providing a standard for the information captured when designed to feed into a central data stream. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help automate and enhance incident reports via Intelligent Triage and language processing. Our Threat Protection application can take multiple streams of threat intelligence feeds and help teams make quick decisions of which signals need to be processed through integration with our Investigations & Case Management application.
Even the best threat assessments and precautions can’t prevent workplace violence from occurring entirely. That’s why many companies turn to Resolver’s threat protection application to identify threats before they turn into costly incidents. Whether your leading indicator comes from an employee hotline, a suspicious log via an access reporting system, the dark web, or social media, Resolver burns the haystack so you can find the needle.
Once a potential threat is identified, Resolver’s market-leading case and investigation management software and built-in assessment methodologies, like WAVR-21, ensure your team can effectively qualify or discredit the threat. Once the threat is qualified, our platform provides workflow management tools to ensure a timely and accurate response. And our built-in data analytics platform ensures you can report on the impact of the threat program and the value of security investments.
Your workplace and everyone in it deserve the best protection. Our technology helps security teams move faster. Sign up for a guided product demo and discover for yourself how Resolver can elevate your security team to new heights.