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Safety Agency Seeks to Reduce Violent Attacks in the Workplace

Workplace injuries can take many forms. Some are more common than others, such as falls from scaffolding or injuries caused by defective tools. Others occur less frequently.

Sometimes workplace injuries are so severe that they are fatal. And sadly, intentional assaults and homicide were the third leading cause of on-the-job deaths last year. Only traffic accidents and fatal falls were more frequent.

In fact, assaults and homicide have been among the top four causes of workplace fatalities for nearly twenty years, dating back to at least 1992. In 2010, acts of violence were the cause of 506 on-the-job deaths, according to data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This was 18 percent of the total of 4,547 workplace deaths in the U.S.

The statistics also show that women are more at risk than men of such violence. Indeed, for women, violence is the leading cause of death at work. Twenty-six percent of the 355 deaths of women on the job - more than 1 of every 4 - were the result of violence. The figure for men was much lower, at 10 percent.

Quite rightly, OSHA is intending to focus more on violence prevention in the workplace. The agency has issued a directive for the first time concerning the inclusion of on-the-job violence in its workplace inspections.

Some occupations are at more risk than others of violent attacks. Psychiatric hospitals are often particularly dangerous places to work. Taxicab drivers and security guards are also often put at risk.

Source: "OSHA Issues First Directive on Investigation of Incidents," BNA, 9-13-11

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