HR Answers: Increase workplace wellness to decrease workplace violence

Work environments and programs that provide ongoing education, support and healthy choices can reduce stress before it escalates.

Workplace violence remains a real and increasing threat to America’s workforce. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, approximately two million workers are victims of workplace violence every year and this number is rising. Even more alarming is that homicide is the fourth-leading cause of workplace deaths. In addition to the human toll, estimates put the total economic cost of workplace violence at over $55 billion.

In response, U.S. companies have almost universally instituted policies prohibiting any type of workplace violence, in addition to such precursors as inappropriate language, sexual harassment and bullying. While these measures have undoubtedly had some positive impact, it is clear from the statistics that they don’t go far enough. In my view as a health care attorney, business owner and specialist in proactive, preventative health care, these policies miss the mark by primarily aiming to control symptoms rather than addressing the underlying issues that contribute to workplace violence.

The job-related physical and mental health issues that can most trigger workplace violence are stress, anxiety, depression and other emotional issues that may be exacerbated by the workplace. According to the American Psychological Association, work-related stress can contribute to short temper. Many people resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms like smoking or heavy drinking that can actually worsen the situation.


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