Workplace violence is a serious issue for businesses in all industries, not just late-night convenience stores and mental healthcare facilities. In fact, the 2005 Survey on Workplace Violence Prevention conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that more than five percent of all U.S. businesses had experienced at least one incident of workplace violence. That number jumped to 50 percent within organizations employing more than 1000 workers. The Census on Fatal Occupational Injuries found an average of 590 workplace homicides occurs in the U.S. each year.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), workplace violence may be defined as any type of threatening behavior or physical assault that occurs within a work setting. This includes events as dramatically violent as beatings, stabbings and shootings to those less blatant, such as intimidating, swearing and shouting.
The general duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) states that it’s your responsibility, as an employer, to provide your employees with a workplace free of hazards that may cause death or physical harm. Just as you’re legally obligated to implement safety measures to prevent accidents within the workplace, you’re equally obligated to take steps to prevent workplace violence.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, assaults and violent acts were the third leading cause of death on the job in 2009, making up 18 percent of all fatal work injuries. It’s safe to assume that employers could have prevented some of these deaths through more thorough background screening of job applicants. Criminal records background checks (county-wide, state, and federal, going back at least seven years) are essential to ensuring the safety of your employees and avoiding negligent hiring lawsuits.
Negligent hiring may be defined as hiring an employee who you knew or suspected posed a threat due to a history of violent behavior or predisposition towards violence. A failure to attempt to ascertain a potential employee’s criminal or violent history may also be defined as negligent hiring. According to the National Institute for Prevention of Workplace violence, negligent hiring cases have had verdicts as large as $40 million. The average negligent hiring settlement is $1 million.
It’s not just workplace homicides that will cost you. As a business owner, it’s in your best interest to prevent workplace violence in all forms, including those that are psychologically aggressive and emotionally abusive. These “bullying” behaviors cause disruption, anxiety and lead to a reduction of employee productivity and morale. NIOSH estimates the cost of workplace violence nationwide to be $121 billion per year, with nonfatal workplace assaults (including bullying) costing businesses $16 million in lost wages and 876,000 lost work days.
Don’t leave your employees and your business vulnerable. Protect them with a custom background-screening program from ARS. The cost of a comprehensive background check is minimal when compared to the losses you may incur in the event of a workplace violence incident.