Casualties While on the Job

Casualties While on the Job

Certain jobs are far more dangerous than others. For example, injuries and deaths arising from robberies are a real possibility for cashiers in conve- nience stores, gas station attendants, and taxi drivers.


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Taxi drivers and chauffeurs of limousines and car services suffer the highest rate of workplace homi- cides of any occupational group: 18 murders for every 100,000 workers per year. These drivers make up only 0.2 percent of the workforce, but their deaths account for 7 percent of on-the-job killings. The actual danger of being murdered dur- ing a robbery is even higher for cabbies collecting cash fares from passengers who are strangers than for chauffeurs for limousine services handling credit card transactions. Besides intentional slayings, taxi drivers face additional risks of injury and death from automobile accidents. Police officers and detectives who arrest suspects face high risks of assault and suffer the second highest on-the-job murder rate, more than 4 fatalities for every 100,000 law enforcement agents per year. They too face additional risks from car crashes. Private security guards carry out assignments that are almost as dangerous, and nearly 4 per 100,000 die each year as a result (Sygnatur and Toscano, 2000).

In general, employees engaged in law enforce- ment (including corrections officers in jails and pris- ons) faced the highest risks of attack while carrying out their duties, followed by workers in the mental health field. People employed in transportation, medicine, retail sales, and teaching faced much lower risks. Police officers experienced the highest rate of physical assaults (about 260 per 1,000 officers per year), while college teachers enjoyed the safest job of all (just 2 attacks per 1,000 professors per year) (Duhart, 2001). In terms of differential risks, dispro- portionate shares of work-related deaths were suf- fered by men, immigrants, and minorities (African- Americans, Hispanics, and Asians) (Sygnatur and Toscano, 2000).

As for trends, a positive development has taken place since the 1990s, as Figure 11.2 shows. On- the-job homicides declined across the country, just as they did before and after work. By 2004, deadly assaults at workplaces had declined so substantially that violence at job sites was less likely to claim lives than motor vehicle accidents, falls, or being struck by a heavy object. Job-related homicides mostly (80 percent) result from gunfire, according to the BLS’s Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (Department

of Labor, 2011; and Botelho, 2014). The nearly 400 workplace homicides in 2013 accounted for less than 10 percent of all on-the-job fatalities. Workers were more likely to die because of transportation accidents, trips and falls, or from being hit by equip- ment or some object.

Impressions derived from media coverage about the nature of workplace violence can be misleading. More than 67 percent of on-the-job slayings stemmed from robberies, not outbursts of fury by coworkers (13 percent); by customers or clients (7 percent); or by intimates and relatives (9 percent), according to an analysis of the murders at workplaces between 1992 and 1998 in which a victim–offender relationship could be established. Also, except for the killings of taxi drivers and store cashiers, most murders do not take place late at night: Midnight to 8 A.M. is the time period with the fewest slayings (Sygnatur and Toscano, 2000).

Violence by students directed toward other students was focused upon earlier in this chapter (see above). But teachers (as well as administrators and other school personnel) can also be the targets of students’ physical attacks (about 4 per 1,000 were assaulted in 2008). Teachers who worked at ele- mentary schools were less likely to suffer acts of violence or theft than those who taught at mid- dle/junior high schools and high schools. Not sur- prisingly, teachers in urban schools experienced more violent incidents than their suburban and rural counterparts, which closely reflected the geo- graphic distribution of crimes committed off school grounds. Public school teachers were subjected to more assaults than those employed by private schools, and male staffers sustained more injuries than females (NCES, 2011a).

Employees have a right to perform their assigned duties in a safe workplace. By law, employers must strive to maintain working condi- tions that are free of known dangers. Employers cannot retaliate against workers who voice concerns about their own safety or report on-the-job injuries from acts of violence by supervisors, coworkers, subordinates, customers, visitors, or intruders (such as robbers or angry former intimate partners).

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During the decades since the rediscovery of workplace violence, a cottage industry of security consulting firms offering threat assessment and risk management services has emerged, offering ways to reduce the chances of violence erupting at factories, offices, and other job sites—both to enhance worker safety as well as to fend off law- suits charging employer negligence. Four kinds of threats must be addressed by high-tech equipment, preventive measures, training sessions, company regulations, and emergency procedures. The first is to prevent an intruder from slipping or barging into the workplace to rob or rape someone. The second is to prevent personal disputes from esca- lating within the workplace (such as when a man invades an office to confront his former girlfriend). The third is to protect employees who must deal with irate customers, angry clients, unruly students, disturbed patients, or dangerous inmates. The fourth is to safeguard workers, bosses, and owners from disgruntled current or former employees (Rugala, 2004).

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