Analysis from the National Safety Council indicates that women are disproportionately impacted by certain safety issues – most notably nonfatal workplace violence - with 70 percent of all assault-related injuries involving days away from work occurring to females.
The number of women who incurred assault-related injuries at work in 2017 totaled 12,820 – a 60 percent increase since 2011. By contrast, 5,530 men sustained assault-related injuries at work in 2017, according to the National Safety Council.
“Our workplaces should be safe havens for everyone, and these data show us we can do more to protect women in the workplace,” said Nick Smith, interim president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “As employers examine the biggest risks facing their workforce, we urge them to consider these trends and make sure safety is extending to all employees.”
Aside from assault, other work-related injuries and illnesses that disproportionately impact women include accidental injury by another person (59 percent), falls on the same level (57 percent), and ergonomic issues, such as complications from repetitive motion (61 percent).
Women working in certain sectors experience a disproportionate number of various nonfatal injuries and illnesses, too. For example, the percentages of nonfatal injuries and illnesses involving women in the following sectors are:
- Healthcare (80 percent)
- Education (61 percent)
- Management, business and financial (60 percent)
Each year, approximately 2 million Americans report having been the victim of workplace violence. Workers in the health care and social service industries experience the highest rates of injuries caused by workplace violence, according to the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1309), which recently was proposed in Congress. They are nearly five times more likely to suffer a workplace violence injury, according to the AFL-CIO.
A 2016 comprehensive review of "Workplace Violence Against Health Care Workers in the United States," published by the New England Journal of Medicine, reports that, although employees in the health care and social service sectors account for 12.2 percent of the workforce, nearly 75 percent of workplace assaults occur in a health care setting. The third leading cause of death for health care workers is workplace violence.
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The National Safety Council encourages workplaces to review their Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and ensure they include appropriate support resources. Employers also should examine historical safety trends involving women in the workplace so that safety measures are aptly addressed for those most vulnerable.
In addition to free active shooter training in communities across the country, the National Safety Council offers emergency preparedness training for the workplace, which includes active shooter instruction. While these extreme cases of assault are rare, an employer can help prepare workers for this kind of emergency.
AIHA, AFL-CIO Support the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1309)
In related news, both the American Industrial Hygiene Association and the AFL-CIO announced support for the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1309), which recently was introduced by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.).
The legislation will require the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to issue a workplace violence prevention standard requiring employers in the health care and social service sectors to develop and implement a plan to protect their employees from workplace violence. These plans will be tailored to the specific workplace and employee population, but may include training on de-escalation techniques, personal alarm devices, surveillance and monitoring systems or other strategies identified by the employers and employees to keep workers safe.
“While OSHA has already issued voluntary guidance to employers on how to prevent violence in these workplaces, data from [the Bureau of Labor Statistics] as well as personal testimony from workers about continuing violence shows that voluntary guidance is not sufficient,” said Courtney, when introducing the legislation. “An enforceable standard is required to prevent the types of violence that are prevalent in too many of our hospitals, nursing homes and social service settings.”
“Data show that health care and social service workers are nearly six times more likely to experience workplace violence,” said Cynthia Ostrowski, CIH, president of AIHA. “Strategies to prevent violence against this category of workers are urgently needed, because we cannot expect them to care about our health and safety if we can’t guarantee theirs.”
Preventing workplace violence is part of AIHA's Public Policy Agenda, which focuses on 15 critical issues that play an important role in creating a healthy and safe work environment.
The AFL-CIO offers these key facts about workplace violence:
- It is responsible for more than 850 worker deaths and 28,000 serious injuries each year and is on the rise.
- One of every six workplace deaths each year are from workplace violence.
- It is now the second leading cause of death on the job.
- Health care and social service workers are at greatest risk: They are nearly five times more likely than other workers to suffer a workplace violence injury.
- Last year, workplace homicides doubled for health care and social service workers.
- Two of every three workplace violence events are suffered by women.
- Workplace violence is foreseeable and preventable.
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