Workplace safety

Understand the scope of violence
Friday, July 27, 2012

Q. Is my HME business at risk for workplace violence?

A. You’ve seen the news. An unhappy customer, disgruntled co-worker or domestic partner goes “postal” at work. After sadness and shock your next reaction is likely, “Could it happen in my business to the people I care about?” Yes, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health, which says that 9,000 healthcare workers a day are victims of workplace violence. Health care is only 18% of the workforce, but 48% of workplace violence victims work in health care-related occupations. And while HME occupations are not the same as say, nursing, it shares many risk factors with traditional healthcare jobs and straddles the line with retail sales, another high-risk category.

The scope of workplace violence is much greater than generally realized as only the most violent and spectacular episodes are reported in the media. However, the scope of workplace violence is much broader. Workplace violence includes any act in which a person is abused, threatened, intimidated or assaulted at his or her place of employment.  Workplace violence includes threatening behavior like shaking fists, destroying property or throwing objects; threats, whether spoken or written that have an intent to inflict harm; harassment that demeans, embarrasses, humiliates, annoys or abuses a person verbally. The “workplace” also includes more than just your office or facilities. It also includes client’s homes, business functions and other places away from the workplace but as a result of work (a threat delivered by telephone to an employee’s home from a customer).

Joe Rosner is an expert on personal safety, workplace violence and self defense for healthcare occupations. He can be reached at