If workplace violence is not already a major concern for your company, it absolutely should be. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workplace violence is currently the third leading cause of death in the workplace in the US. Each year, it’s estimated that workers still experience about two million instances or threats of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening disruptive behavior on worksites.
For companies with mobile employees working in a mobile workplace, the risk of violence is much higher and more difficult to plan for. That’s why CompanyMileage wanted to raise awareness about this issue and do what we can to help protect the mobile employees who use our apps everyday.
The Risk of Workplace Violence Today
In general, acts of workplace violence have steadily increased over the last decade. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that in 2011, there were 11,690 recorded incidents, and by 2020, that number increased to 20,870. The category with the most notable increase was instances of nonfatal hitting, kicking, beating and shoving which rose by almost ten thousand in that time period.
You might assume that the increase in remote work that occurred in 2020 reduced the number of incidents, but that’s not entirely true. Yes, more people were working in the safety of their homes, but many frontline workers experienced a dramatic rise in violence directed towards them. Workers were yelled at, spat on, threatened or assaulted for enforcing pandemic safety measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing. Many of the more minor incidents will not appear in official statistics, but they take a toll on employees nonetheless. For employees working away from a central workplace, managers and supervisors may be even less aware of such work conditions.
Mobile Workplace Violence
When we think of workplace violence, we often think of incidents happening in a physical office setting, but a huge risk factor for employees is actually working away from the office, a trend that is on the rise. According to a report from the IDC, by 2020 mobile workers were expected to account for nearly three-quarters (72.3%) of the US workforce. The issue is that many mobile employees such as home care aides, social workers or property managers meet many of the risk factors that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recognizes as increasing the likelihood of workplace violence. These include:
- Contact with the public
- Exchange of money
- Delivery of passengers, goods, or services
- Having a mobile workplace such as a taxicab or police cruiser
- Working with unstable or volatile persons in health care, social service, or criminal justice settings
- Working alone or in small numbers
- Working late at night or during early morning hours
- Working in high-crime areas
- Guarding valuable property or possessions
- Working in community-based settings
Healthcare workers are particularly at risk. Employees in the healthcare and social assistance sectors account for nearly 75% of workplace assaults despite them making up only about 12.2% of the working population. And, home healthcare workers are especially vulnerable; for this group of mobile employees, homicide is the second leading cause of workplace death. In fact, the risk of workplace violence is so notable that the CDC provides their own workplace violence prevention guidance for home healthcare workers.
Keeping the Mobile Workplace Safe
The nature of a mobile workplace means that employees regularly face uncertain situations and must respond to environmental factors out of their control. What can employers do to keep their workforce safe as they travel out into the community to perform their jobs on a daily basis?
Prepare the Environment
First and foremost, make sure employees know exactly where they’re going and how they’re getting there. This means ensuring they have an accurate address and directions to the location. If possible, restrict working hours for employees to daylight hours and mandate that they regularly report in regarding their whereabouts throughout the day.
You may also opt to provide employees with security devices. Geographic locating devices, alarms, cameras and protective equipment not only reduce the risk of violence, but they can aid workers should an incident occur.
Institute Administrative Protocols
Implementing safety plans is an important step that any employer can and should take immediately if you haven’t already. Creating policies and procedures for assessing and reporting threats allow employers to track and assess threats and violent incidents in the workplace and indicate a zero tolerance stance on the matter.
Policies should provide a mechanism for employees to report incidents and explain how reports will be handled and investigated. When employees are able to report and encouraged to do so, it helps employers make the mobile workplace safer by assessing whether prevention strategies are appropriate and effective.
Workplace safety policies can also include guidance for employees on recognizing what is and isn’t violence, actions you’ve taken to ensure their safety while on the job and instructions on how to properly use security devices.
Any safety policies you have should be accompanied with training and education initiatives that will equip employees with the skills they need to keep themselves safe in a risky situation. Training should be specific, addressing hazards associated with the locations they’re likely to work and the tasks they’re likely to do .These programs should also be seen as a key component of your overall workplace safety plan and should therefore emphasize the use of security devices, adherences to administrative controls and increasing awareness of workplace violence.
The most important activities you can educate employees on are nonviolent response and conflict resolution. Including guidance on how to defuse and deescalate a situation, how to spot signals of impending violent assault and avoiding behaviors that could be interpreted as aggressive are essential in protecting employees during the delivery of services in the community.
Support Mobile Workers With CompanyMileage
CompanyMileage’s suite of solutions — SureMileage, SureMobile and SureExpense — are known for providing our customers with the ability to streamline mileage expense reimbursement, but we also help support mobile employees wherever they go. By offering an integrated Address Book, accurate directions to each service location and easy check-in procedures upon arrival via Quick Capture, we give employees the tools to ensure they arrive at each appointment safely and securely.
Workplace violence is a serious concern for both employers and employees, and as more people join the mobile workplace, the risk is likely to grow. Together, we can work to prevent incidents from occurring, though. To learn how CompanyMileage can play in role in your safety plan — and improve your mileage reimbursement process while we’re at it — request a demo with us today!