Point, counter point talk on violence in the workplace set

KINGMAN - Workplace violence is not often a topic of casual conversation, so it's probably safe to surmise that many do not realize that among women, homicide is the No. 1 cause of workplace death.

According to 2010 preliminary data regarding fatal occupational injuries released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in August, women suffered 355 fatal injuries while at work. Of those, 92 - approximately 26 percent - were caused by homicide. As a comparison, less than 420 men died as a result of workplace homicide, but 4,192 men suffered work-related deaths in 2010. Men accounted for more than 90 percent of all occupational fatalities in 2010, according to the BLS.

Though their overall count is much higher, men murdered on the job constitute 10 percent of male fatalities in the workplace.

The BLS says the total number of on-the-job homicides has decreased by more than 50 percent since 1994 - a year that saw almost 1,100 people murdered at work. Still, while overall numbers may have declined, the rate in which women are murdered while clocked in increased by 13 percent from 2009 to 2010.

The Northwest Human Resources Association presents "Identifying and Addressing Violence in the Workplace" from noon to 2 p.m. Thursday at the Mohave Community College Kingman campus, in Room 200F. Tommy Taylor, NWAHRA membership director, explained that two speakers will engage in a "point, counter point" discussion regarding workplace violence. Kris Culbertson, a lawyer with Littler Mendelson, will present the issue from an employer-liability standpoint while Erin Nelson, a forensic and clinical psychologist who specializes in abuse and domestic violence, will present the topic from the viewpoint of identifying workplace violence, Taylor said.

Although the presentation has time constraints, Taylor said the fact that two people from different areas of expertise will be discussing an issue that continues to grow in importance will make for a robust event.

Employers face a plethora of issues when it comes to workplace violence, Taylor said. Let's say a boss hires someone without conducting a background check or calling his or her references, and then that person assaults a co-worker during the course of employment. The company could be held liable because the boss failed to check into the person before offering him or her a job, Taylor said.

Also, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says it's an employer's duty to provide a safe work environment free from recognized hazards, Taylor said. If an employer fails to do so - either by turning a blind eye to a known issue or by not investigating a potential employee's history - OSHA can cite the organization.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, workplace violence carries a hefty price tag of $121 billion a year for employers. Taylor said much of that comes from lawsuits, insurance issues and public relations campaigns. But within that multi-billion dollar receipt, there are lost workdays, waning productivity and costs associated with hiring and training new employees.

There are ways to avoid workplace violence. Taylor said there needs to be policy in place that states violence of any kind is unacceptable, but more importantly, that policy needs to be enforced. There also needs to be an open line of communication between employees and employers, so that when issues with disgruntled workers or violent spouses spring up, they can be dealt with accordingly.

Not all workplace violence ends in murder, but a hostile workplace where threats are underreported and go unnoticed is a precursor to a much more dangerous issue, Taylor said.

Email Jennifer Stanley to RSVP at jenniferstanley@mckee.com. The event is free to NWAHRA members and costs $10 for non-members.