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Published: October, 2019; Vol 16, Num 5

 

Recognizing & Preventing Workplace Violence in Construction

When you think of workplace violence, what comes to mind? If you follow the news, the answer may be an active shooter situation or the increased incidents of violence against healthcare workers. These issues capture most of the headlines, and they are undoubtedly very important, but they don’t capture the full scope of workplace violence in the U.S. and Canada.

LIUNA General
Secretary-Treasurer
and LHSFNA Labor
Co-Chairman
Armand E. Sabitoni

OSHA estimates that about two million workers are affected by workplace violence every year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that almost nine percent of all worker deaths in the U.S. in 2017 were caused by workplace violence. In the construction industry, workplace violence accounted for 56 of the 971 worker deaths in 2017.

“Unfortunately, these disturbing statistics still understate the number of people affected by violence in the workplace,” says LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni. “First, it’s estimated that up to 25 percent of workplace violence incidents never get reported. The other issue is that worker safety agencies like OSHA only track injuries and fatalities from physical violence, not all types of workplace violence.”

What Is Considered Workplace Violence?

Workplace violence is more than physical violence alone. Workplace violence is any threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening or disruptive behavior that occurs on the job. This includes sexual harassment and bullying. Harassment is defined as any unwelcome or discriminatory verbal or physical contact, while bullying is defined as unprovoked, repeated aggressive or hurtful behavior committed by one or more people against another.

Potential Impacts on Workers and Employers

All workers, regardless of industry, have the potential to be affected by workplace violence. In addition to injuries caused by physical violence, workers may experience numerous other physical and mental health effects. These include increased stress and anxiety, depression and lower self-esteem.

Employers that don’t take steps to reduce and stop harassment, bullying and other types of workplace violence are likely to see increased absenteeism, reduced productivity when workers are on the job and lower morale overall on site. The pervasive threat of workplace violence alone can be a safety risk, as workers may be unable to concentrate or devote their full attention to the task at hand.

Recognizing and Addressing Workplace Violence on the Job

While workplace violence is a complex and multifaceted issue, as with any jobsite hazard, there are concrete steps that employers can take to reduce risk for all employees. Some of these steps include:

  • Incorporating workplace violence into the company’s formal safety and health program
  • Encouraging workers to report incidents that occur and overcoming a reluctance to report
  • Training supervisors to recognize potential warning signs and take appropriate action
  • Creating a stigma-free workplace so that employees feel supported by management and their co-workers

Join the LHSFNA’s Workplace Violence Webinar

Want more information about how to implement these steps and recognize and reduce workplace violence in your workplace? The Fund will host a webinar on workplace violence in the construction industry on October 16th at 2 p.m. Eastern. This webinar is available to all LIUNA signatory contractors and other LIUNA affiliates. To join us, please use this link to register.

[Nick Fox]