HR and the Leading Causes of Work-related Deaths

by Michael Haberman on August 13, 2009 · 0 comments


Despite the title this is not about HR being the leading cause of death in the workplace, though I would bet I am not the only HR manager who at one point has wanted to eliminate a troublesome employee. No this is a post about actual, regretable, hopefully preventable causes of death in the workplace. I was reminded of this in hearing the news story about the toll booth operator in the San Francisco area who was allegedly shot to death by an estranged boyfriend just the other day. The boyfriend, who also is suspected of having killed a bus driver in the same location, has been captured. This poor woman was a victim of the LEADING cause of death for women in the workplace, MURDER, according to SafetyResource.org. He knew just where to find her and did so. And that is the issue. Men who want to do violence to the women in there lifes know when and where they are if the woman has a job.

Also according to SafetyResource.org murder in general is the second leading cause of work-related deaths behind traffic accidents.

Workplace violence unfortunately become a fact of life especially when domestic violence spills over into the workplace. There are a number of things that can be done and for those of you that are SHRM members there is an entire toolkit that I recommend you look at. But here is some general advice taken from the introduction to that SHRM toolkit I think is quite sound.

  • Train managers and supervisors on the early warning signs of potential violence, what the policy is, and how to address those warning signs.
  • Implement a comprehensive workplace violence prevention program that includes a policy setting the framework and guidelines for dealing with workplace violence.
  • Communicate with employees that the company wants to know when there are threats or incidents and that it is serious about handling those problems.
  • Periodic risk assessments should be part of the prevention policy to determine what and where your company’s vulnerabilities are – both inside and outside of the workplace. Tie assessments to safety audits to identify problems early.
  • Implement access control on a regular basis. It can take various forms, including sign-in sheets and a camera system.
  • Make it clear there is a reason for security procedures and that precautions extend to even persons familiar to the employer, such as an employee’s family members or friends.
  • Identify to all employees the “go to” point person or office for communicating any potential workplace violence threat or concern.

Perhaps some such policy or commuication might have saved this poor toll booth attendant, perhaps not. But by implementing guidelines HR might have a hand in saving a life. And if you do nothing else of value in your HR career that is enough.

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