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Jan. 29, 2010

L&I: Deaths related to workplace violence climbed in 2009

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TUMWATER – The slayings last year of six law enforcement officers, as well as several workplace suicides, caused deaths due to workplace violence to spike upward in Washington State, the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) announced today.

There were 13 on-the-job homicides and seven workplace suicides last year, nearly a third of the 62 total fatalities resulting from work-related injuries in 2009. Although this is the highest number of workplace-violence-related deaths in more than a decade, it does not reflect an upward trend but, rather, a tragic year for law enforcement.

In addition to the officers, others who died as a result of workplace violence included clerks in the retail business, a taxi driver, a musician, and an armored car driver.

“While deaths involving criminal activity may seem particularly hard to avoid, certain measures can reduce the risk that employees will become victims of violence in the workplace,” said Michael Silverstein, assistant director of L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

Workplace-violence prevention measures can include everything from environmental changes, such as improved lighting, to employee training, such as de-escalation techniques. Studies by L&I have determined that most injuries due to workplace violence occur in jobs known to be high risk, such as those involving contact with the public, the exchange of money, working alone, and working late at night or very early in the morning.

State laws on workplace safety recognize that certain industries carry the potential for violence, with some requiring that late night retail businesses, for example, provide lighted parking lots, safes without employee access, and special training for workers. Violence prevention plans and special training are also required for employees in health-care settings.

L&I has tips on coping with many violent and potentially violent situations, including robberies, abusive customers or co-workers, and domestic violence. For help developing a workplace-violence prevention plan, visit www.Lni.wa.gov/Safety/Topics/AtoZ/WPV/.

A report on all workplace deaths in 2009 was compiled by the Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation program (FACE), managed by L&I’s Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) program. The “Washington FACE 2009 Occupational Fatality Report” is at www.Lni.wa.gov/Safety/Research/FACE/DataSum/ under 2009 data.

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For media information: Hector Castro, L&I, 360-902-6043

Broadcast version: The Department of Labor and Industries says deaths due to workplace violence rose in 2009 to the highest levels in more than a decade. There were 13 on-the-job homicides, including six police officers, and seven suicides, also on the job. Although this is the highest number of workplace-violence-related deaths in more than a decade, it does not reflect an upward trend but, rather, a tragic year for law enforcement. L&I reminds employers that there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of workplace violence. The state agency is urging businesses to review their workplace-violence prevention programs and, if they don’t have one, to visit the L&I Web site for guidance on developing one. Go to Lni dot wa dot gov, then click on the “safety” tab.

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Voice of Hector Castro, L&I communications manager: "Clearly, violence can break out anywhere, whether it's an office, an all night market or, as we've seen recently, a bus. But what we hope people take away from this is that there are some things a business can do to make the workplace safer from acts of violence and we are urging both workers and employers to educate themselves on this issue."

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