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COMMENTARY: Guns play big role in work violence

COMMENTARY: Guns play big role in work violence

Guns play big role in work violence

Two days before Gabrielle Giffords resigned from her job as a U.S. representative on Jan. 25, NCCI Holdings Inc. released a research report on workplace violence.

Although unrelated, the two events shed light on the role of guns in workplace attacks and killings.

Nearly 2 million American workers annually report having been victims of workplace violence, which includes threats, physical assaults and homicides, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Meanwhile, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that of 4,547 fatal workplace injuries that occurred in the United States during 2010, 506 were homicides.

That makes homicide the nation's fourth-leading cause of fatal occupational injuries. For women, homicide is the leading cause of death in the workplace.

Most news stories about NCCI's “Violence in the Workplace” report focused on the research finding that a large majority of at-work homicides stems from robberies rather than from disgruntled employees.

That finding is important to help workers compensation experts distinguish between what the media chooses to report and where most workplace violence risk actually lies.

NCCI said in its report that homicides make up 11% of workplace fatalities.

“Despite the headlines, the share of workplace homicides due to co-workers has remained steady at about 12%, and the actual number of such homicides has been in the 50 to 60 range (annually) in recent years,” NCCI stated.

In contrast, homicides involving robbers and other crime perpetrators accounted for 69% of all workplace killings in 2009, NCCI reported.

But 50 to 60 crime-of-passion killings occurring in U.S. workplaces each year is still an obscene number.

Just 10 days before NCCI released its workplace violence report, a North Carolina worker carrying a shotgun sought out specific lumber company co-workers, killing three people and injuring another.

In January 2011, the nation was stunned when accused gunman Jared Loughner shot Rep. Giffords and 18 other people, killing six, outside an Arizona Safeway grocery store in January 2011. Rep. Gifford's courageous recovery efforts and her resignation as a U.S. representative from Arizona continue to draw national interest.

Her shooting was a work-related incident, as reports say her medical care has been paid for by a workers compensation program for federal workers.

That brings me back to the NCCI report.

One finding in NCCI's research that news stories didn't mention is that 80% of workplace homicides result from shootings, far more than the 10% caused by stabbings or the remainder caused by other types of violence, such as kicking and beatings.

So guns are a huge contributor to workplace violence, whether they are used by disgruntled co-workers, patrons, spouses or robbers.