The U.S. Department of Labor released its 2011 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries recently, and while workplace deaths were down, the data presents some interesting reminders about workplace safety and workplace violence especially as related to gender and family.
First, women are far less likely to die from work injuries than men. Even after correcting for the number of hours worked, almost 9 times more men died from work-related injuries in 2011 than women. This has mostly to do with the low percentage of women workers in the most hazardous jobs.
Among deadly injuries for both genders at work, transportation incidents ranked at the top in 2011: 23% (1,739) of fatal work injuries for men and 27% (158) for women. Bar none, more effective driver safety initiatives stand to protect more workers from deadly workplace incidents than any other single safety and health improvement.
However, where the other major causes of deadly work injuries for men are fairly evenly distributed between violence, contact with objects and equipment, and slips trips and falls, the statistics for women paint a much starker picture.
Injuries from violence (mostly homicide) accounted for 27% (100) of workplace deaths for women compared to 16% (680) for men. Of those deaths that were the result of homicide, robbers were responsible for the lion’s share overall — 36% (137) of males and 22% (17) of females.
However, workplace homicides for women are far more likley to be at the hands of a relative or domestic parnter. In 2011, 39% of work-related homicides claiming women were at the hands of a relative, usually a husband or an ex. In total, around 8% of deadly work injuries suffered by women in 2011 were suffered at the hands of a current or former spouse or domestic partner — about the same as exposure to harmful substances, exposure to harmful environments, fires, and explosions … combined.
This statistic is a good reminder to safety and health professionals of the importance of looking at the whole picture when it comes to workplace safety. Injury and illness prevention programs must address every hazard present in the workplace, including all types of workplace violence.
The NIOSH classifies domestic violence as Type IV workplace violence, predicated on a personal relationship. Most workplace violence programs focus on Type I incidents, those with criminal intent, but a comprehensive program also must address the hazards posed by family members of employees. Health and safety professionals must work with human resources professionals to put in place systems of support and security protocols to prevent all violence in the workplace, including domestic violence.