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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Workplace Violence Prevention in Maine (Part 2 of 3)

Posted by Sarah Conroy on 2/15/2012 9:00:00 AM

Although workplace violence is a concern for everyone, there are a number of industries and certain environments that are at a higher risk. Studies conducted by NIOSH concluded that the highest numbers of occupational homicides occurred in working environments that included:

  • Taxicab establishments.
  • Liquor stores.
  • Gas stations.
  • Security and detective services.
  • Justice and public entities such as courts and law enforcement offices.
  • Grocery stores.
  • Jewelry stores.
  • Hotels/motels.
  • Eating and drinking establishments.

Basically, any situation where workers exchange money with the public, work alone or in small groups, deliver passengers, or work late hours or early morning shifts are included. In-home related services, social work, health care and other types of community-based positions also are included in the high-risk category. Risks are even greater for companies with locations in high-crime areas and/or for those that have positions that require employees to possess a weapon as part of their daily job function.


Maine is a relatively safe state, yet a body of evidence indicates Maine workers are sometimes at risk for workplace violence. For employers, workplace violence can result in a number of damaging effects including loss of patrons, harmful publicity, potential for litigation, employee turnover, absenteeism, increased workers’ compensation costs, and the long-term emotional toll of witnessing an employee’s injury or death. As with many issues of public safety, the benefits of implementing a prevention plan need to be weighed against the costs of responding to an incident of preventable workplace violence.  Based on the Maine Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), there was an annual average of 77 workplace robberies – approximately one every five days – between 1994 and 2004. Approximately 41 percent of these occurred in business establishments not provided in detail by the UCR. Of those that could be classified, about 39 percent occur in convenience stores, ten percent in banks and six percent were at gas stations. From 1990 through 2005 there were 17 workplace homicides. Type I (criminal intent) violence accounted for seven (41%); five were in a retail environment (supermarkets, a convenience store, a gas station and a clothing store). Five homicides (29%) resulted from Type 4 (personal relationship) violence. Less frequent were Type 3 (worker-on-worker) with three (18%) and Type 2 (customer/client) with only two (12%).  According to Maine Workers’ Compensation data about 245 workers annually report a lost-time injury due to workplace violence. Looking at occupations, nurses and nurses’ aides are the largest group, accounting for 44% of the reports. Retail workers (26 %) and police (18%) were second and third. Research by the Maine Department of Labor shows that workplace violence incidents are underreported in the Workers’ Compensation system.  Much more here.

Maine takes domestic violence seriously and recognizes its part in workplace violence.  As mentioned previously, the Governor is addressing this as a goal of his administration.  Here is a recent report from Maine’s domestic abuse homicide review panel with some important observations and recommendations.  Remember, domestic abuse is not separate from your workplace, not only might you employ targets and aggressors, but parents, children and others impacted by it.  This is why giving your employees access to an employee assistance program (EAP) is a wise investment.

Here are some more resources to help bring the problem into focus and help you take steps to mitigate its potential impact on your workplace.

  • Maine Attorney General’s Office
  • Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence 
  • PowerPoint on workplace violence prevention

In our next blog, we will explore the disproportionate impact on women and offer more detail on how businesses are addressing workplace violence.

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