Workplace Violence Prevention Programs in West Texas

Article excerpt

Among the sad-but-true trends of modern life is an increase in workplace violence. Despite the breadth of employee abuse--little is known about links between this problem and violence prevention strategies. A survey of human resource managers in five roughly similar West Texas cities found that the most common prevention device was information in the employee handbook. However, organizations with 50 or more employees tended to have pro-active measures, as did those that had experienced workplace violence. There was little correlation between prevention measures and types of industries.

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Workplace violence is broadly defined as incidents where workers are abused, threatened, or assaulted involving explicit or implicit challenges to their safety, well-being, or health (Russell, 1999). Examples include verbal threats, aggravated assaults, homicides, physical attacks, and rapes (Kirk and Franklin, 2003).

Workplace violence has emerged as a critical safety and health hazard. Workplace homicide is the fastest growing form of murder and the prime cause of occupational death for women (Santana and Fisher, 2002). In the United States, nearly a thousand workers are murdered and two million are victims of physical attacks in the workplace every year (Mattman, 2004). Every work day, an estimated 16,400 threats, 723 attacks, and 43,000 harassments are made (Kaufer and Mattman, 2004). Nonfatal assaults occurred in the service (64%) and retail trade (21%) industries. About 44% of men and 56% of women have reported nonfatal assaults (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 2004a). The annual cost for violence and associated stress is estimated at $13.5 billion in medical costs and 500,000 workers missing about two million days of work (Grossman, 2002).

Even though workplace violence is a significant problem within organizations, Santana and Fisher (2002) state that little is known about "what types of general security and violence prevention strategies and measures have been implemented" (p. 108). A systematic inventory of these strategies and measures should be undertaken to test their effectiveness and plan violence prevention programs accordingly. Santana and Fisher suggest investigating violence prevention measures directly targeted at male and female employees, respectively, due to their different life circumstances.

Braverman (2002) provides a broader view of what is needed in violence prevention research by looking not only at how companies target violence prevention measures for demographic groups based on gender, race, and ethnicity, but also by considering organizational events and settings. Organizations can adjust their violence prevention techniques based on events including experience with violence in their workplace. They can also make adjustments based on their size, industry, location, and mission. When organizations design violence prevention efforts, they should consider not only demographic groups and organizational events and settings, but also their interactions.

Purpose of Paper

This study focuses on two of Braverman's (2002) suggested areas of research, namely organizational events and settings. We investigate if there are correlations between the prevalence of various violence prevention techniques and organizational events, such as prior violence in the workplace, and also organizational settings, such as the type of industry and the number of people employed.

This study adds correlations to the database for future meta-analytic research on the relationship between the prevalence of violence prevention techniques and organizational characteristics. Causal linkages in the relationships are not implied. As a byproduct, this study also adds to the database some of the most common approaches used to prevent or reduce workplace violence. Implications for violence prevention behavior and future research are included. …