In April-Workplace Violence Awareness Month-SWS, together with sister publications Water & Wastes Digest and Water Quality Products, surveyed their audiences to learn what measures the greater water industry is taking to respond to violence in the workplace. This industry has a unique variety of workplaces: treatment plants, job sites, manufacturing facilities, office spaces and more. With nearly 75% of respondents working in offices, on job sites or in manufacturing facilities, the experiences of professionals in the storm water sector were well represented.
The survey showed that most places of employment (61.5%) have safeguards in place to prevent violent activity like an active shooter. While it is positive that more than half of workplaces are prepared for these events, this still leaves 38.5%-a significant percentage of respondents in the industry-without safeguards. What’s more, 34.5% of respondents said their employer never discusses a safeguard plan with employees. In other words, even if an employer has a plan in place, employees may not be aware of it, which may be as ineffective as not having a plan in the first place.
Certain workplaces, like job sites, are particularly vulnerable. Employees that work on job sites often are more exposed to the public than other workplaces in the industry, making implementing safeguards more challenging. That said, every work environment demands the same level of safeguards against threats or acts of violence.
In recent years, the number of shootings has grown across the U.S., including in workplaces. While workplace violence can take many forms, the National Safety Council reports the deadliest events involve active shooters. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, nearly 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year, and homicide currently is the fourth leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the U.S.
It is the responsibility of employers to ensure their employees work in a safe work environment every day. If your workplace does not have safeguards in place for occupational violence, I encourage you to thoughtfully explore opportunities to implement them. And if you do have safeguards in place, I encourage you to regularly revisit them to make improvements and educate your employees about your plan.