Violence spills from home to workplace
Don’t just wait for something bad to happen’
Domestic violence is not just a crisis in the home. It is a significant risk factor for workplace violence, as well.
Violence prevention experts are urging employers to screen for domestic violence and to have policies to address it. That is especially important in hospitals, where about 80% of employees are women, Patricia Dawson, RN, manager of occupational health clinics for Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. in Columbus, OH, explained in a recent webinar sponsored by the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses.
"Domestic violence is a leading cause of injury to women in the U.S. and one of four women in the United States will be impacted by it in their lifetime," she said.
When women are killed at work, the incident is often linked to domestic violence. About two in five (39%) workplace homicides of women involve relatives or personal acquaintances, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.1
That presents a potential risk to patients, visitors and other employees. Domestic violence also impacts employers through medical claims and lost productivity, noted Dawson.
"There are some significant costs to employers, which include loss of days worked, absenteeism and presenteeism," she said. "For victims, [there is a] vicious cycle of not showing up at work. The victims may miss work due to health effects [of violence at home] or due to the controlling behaviors of their abusers."
What can occupational health professionals do about events that take place outside of work? They can provide awareness and referrals to the employee assistance program. A multi-disciplinary committee should include domestic violence in threat assessment, and security personnel may need to become involved to provide a safety plan for the employee, said Dawson.
For example, arrival and departure times are often the most dangerous times for the employee, she said.
Free resources are available to employers through Workplaces Respond to Domestic and Sexual Violence: A National Resource Center, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Justice. (www.workplacesrespond.org.) Employers can download a model policy and posters that can be placed in a break area with information about the hospital’s employee assistance program.
The website also provides fact sheets and information for employers, including a guide for supervisors. "It’s important for employers to understand more about the dynamics of domestic violence and stalking and how that violence can impact the work environment," says Maya Raghu, senior attorney with Futures Without Violence in Washington, D.C., one of the groups in the Workplaces Respond project.
"Our approach is to encourage employers to be proactive about how domestic violence and stalking affect the workplace and not just wait for something bad to happen," she says.
[Editor’s note: An archived version of the domestic violence webinar, as well as other occ health webinars, is available at www.aaohn.org.]
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Workplace homicides from shooting, January 2013. Available at www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/osar0016.htm.