Creating a safe and secure workplace is vital for both organizations and society. Each year, thousands of American workers experience workplace violence, resulting in injuries and fatalities. In 2020 alone, there were 20,050 injuries and 392 fatalities due to workplace assaults, as reported by the National Safety Council. While certain industries, such as healthcare and service providers, are more susceptible to violence, it’s crucial to recognize that workplace violence can affect anyone.
Recent research has shed light on the critical issue affecting young employees aged 14 to 24 in the United States. Shockingly, despite being early on in their careers, three out of 5 young employees face workplace violence in some form, results of a recent study show.
While workplace violence against adults has garnered extensive attention, this groundbreaking study marks the first-ever national assessment of workplace violence against young workers in the United States. Collaboratively, researchers from the University of Iowa, Boise State University, and the University of California San Diego conducted this pioneering research, analyzing survey data gathered from 1,031 workers aged 14 to 24.
Key Findings from the Study
An Alarming Prevalence: The research revealed that a significant 60% of young workers have experienced workplace violence. This high prevalence emphasizes the urgency of addressing this issue.
Verbal Abuse Is Prominent: Verbal abuse remains the most common form of workplace violence, affecting 53% of respondents. Such mistreatment fosters fear and insecurity among young workers.
Gender Disparities Persist: Female employees are more likely to face workplace violence and sexual harassment, while male counterparts are more susceptible to verbal abuse.
High-Risk Industries Unchanged: Workplace violence remains most prevalent in high-risk industries like healthcare and food services. These sectors must prioritize preventive measures to protect young workers.
Customer Service Workers at Risk: Young employees in customer service roles continue to report the highest frequency of workplace violence. Employers in various industries must address this pressing issue.
Protections from Violence Against Young Employees
Co-author Carri Casteel, a professor of occupational and environmental health at the University of Iowa, emphasizes that, “Young workers need more protections in the workplace, especially as labor restrictions for youth are loosening in some states.” This highlights the critical importance of adapting policies and practices to safeguard young employees’ rights and well-being. To protect employees and stakeholders, every organization should establish a clear workplace violence policy that includes:
- Communicating training and emergency plans clearly and frequently.
- Adhering to OSHA’s workplace violence prevention programs, integrating engineering and administrative controls, along with training.
- Ensuring all workers are aware of the policy and understand that violence claims will be promptly addressed.
- Implementing zero-tolerance workplace violence policies.
- Utilizing safety technology, such as surveillance cameras, panic buttons, or weapon detection systems.
This study provides a comprehensive view of the challenges faced by young workers regarding workplace violence in the United States. With a significant percentage experiencing violence, it is imperative for employers, policymakers, and society to prioritize the safety and mental well-being of young employees. Addressing workplace violence is a non-negotiable responsibility. Establishing policies, utilizing safety tech, and following OSHA guidance create safer workplaces, protect employees, and contribute to a safer society.