In February, a man wielding a machete attacked innocent people in a restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. According to witnesses, the attacker walked in with his machete and began stabbing people systematically without saying a word. The attacker injured four people and traumatized many others. Victims tried to fight him off using chairs to block his machete. Eventually, the attacker fled the scene and engaged police officers who were forced to fire.
That same month, a psychiatric patient attacked a hospital security guard while he was on duty. The security officer was stabbed before the patient was restrained and sedated. The guard was immediately rushed to surgery and is in stable condition.
When you think of workplace violence, it always seems like those types of incidents will never happen to you. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), homicides are actually the fourth leading cause of deaths in the workplace.
Workplace Violence is Usually Covered Under Workers’ Compensation
More than two million Americans fall victim to workplace violence every year. Workplace violence can occur as the verbal threats or abuse, physical contact and homicides. According to OSHA, there are some types of employees that are more vulnerable to workplace violence than others, including:
- Workers who handle and exchange money
- Workers who deliver passengers, such as taxis
- Workers who deliver goods or services to residences
- Workers with late hours
- Jobs in community settings with more contact with the public than usual
However, employers are required to provide a work environment free from what OSHA calls “recognizable hazards” likely to cause injuries or death. This is generally interpreted to take into account the threat of violence in the workplace. That said, if the worst happens and you are suddenly faced with an injury caused by workplace violence, you are eligible to receive workers’ compensation.
What Can Employers Do to Protect Workers from Workplace Violence?
In order to protect workers from workplace violence, whether that includes another employee or an outside force, employers must establish a prevention program. This program should incorporate an accident prevention program, a zero-tolerance policy and a handbook that outlines procedure to take should workplace violence occur. Employers should also provide safety education training for employees and encourage buddy systems, rather than traveling alone (even if it’s to the parking lot). Employers with cash registers should ensure workers only carry a minimal amount of money. And finally, employers should encourage workers to report any safety concerns or threats immediately and in writing.
Larrimer & Larrimer, LLC is a personal injury law firm that fights for victims of workplace violence or other types of workplace accidents in Ohio.