The Seattle-area murder last year of six law enforcement officers, as well as several workplace suicides, caused deaths on the job to spike in Washington State, the Department of Labor & Industries announced today.
There were 13 on-the-job homicides and seven workplace suicides last year, nearly a third of the 62 total fatalities resulting from work-related injuries in 2009. Although this is the highest number of workplace-violence-related deaths in more than a decade, it does not reflect an upward trend but, rather, a tragic year for law enforcement.
In addition to the officers, others who died as a result of workplace violence included clerks in the retail business, a taxi driver, a musician, and an armored car driver.
"While deaths involving criminal activity may seem particularly hard to avoid, certain measures can reduce the risk that employees will become victims of violence in the workplace," said Michael Silverstein, assistant director of L&I's Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
Workplace-violence prevention measures can include everything from environmental changes, such as improved lighting, to employee training, such as de-escalation techniques. Studies by L&I have determined that most injuries due to workplace violence occur in jobs known to be high risk, such as those involving contact with the public, the exchange of money, working alone, and working late at night or very early in the morning.
State laws on workplace safety recognize that certain industries carry the potential for violence, with some requiring that late night retail businesses, for example, provide lighted parking lots, safes without employee access, and special training for workers. Violence prevention plans and special training are also required for employees in health-care settings.
The bureau publishes a tipsheet for developing workplace-violence prevention plans, at www.Lni.wa.gov/Safety/Topics/AtoZ/WPV/