SHRM Study Shows Increase in Workplace Violence

Author: Robert S. Teachout, XpertHR Legal Editor

March 22, 2019

Nearly one in seven US workers report feeling unsafe at work, according to a survey on workplace violence released by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). However, most workers say that they would know what to do if they were to witness or be involved in an incident. The report, released this week at the SHRM Employment Law and Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, was based on a poll of 1,416 HR professionals and 545 employees.

According to the report, 48 percent of HR professionals reported having had an incident of workplace violence at their organization, a 12-percentage point increase since 2012. Of those, half reported that there had been an incident during the past year.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), nearly 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year, but many more cases go unreported. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2017 workplace violence resulted in 18,000 nonfatal injuries and 800 deaths.

OSHA defines workplace violence as any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It can range from verbal threats and abuse to physical assaults and homicides, and may or may not involve guns or other weapons.

Most employees (71 percent) and HR professionals (81 percent) agree or somewhat agree that they would know what to do if they witnessed or were involved in an incident of workplace violence. However, only 57 percent of workplaces provide training to workers on how to respond to an act of workplace violence, and only 36 percent have a workplace violence prevention program.

The data also show that, when an organization has either a workplace violence prevention programs or employee response training, more than 30 percent more employees know what to do when they witness or are involved in a workplace violence incident.

"Companies and HR should and must do more to make employees feel safe at work," said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., president and CEO of SHRM. "This data shows we have a lot of work to do in terms of security, prevention, training and response."