How common is workplace violence?
(CNNMoney) — The shooting homicide in Virginia of two journalists on the air is a tragic reminder that workplace violence is real.
But Wednesday’s horrific crime is a rare type of event.
Often violence at work is psychological in nature.
The most common but least reported types of workplace violence are bullying, intimidation and threats.
“I doubt there’s a company with more than 10 employees that hasn’t had that,” said Joel Dvoskin, who runs the Threat Assessment Group, which offers workplace violence prevention services to Fortune 100 companies.
About 700 people a year are murdered on the job.
The most extreme types of violence result in fatalities, like those that occurred in Virginia on Wednesday. The estimates here are more reliable because homicides are almost always reported, Dvoskin said. Between 1992 and 2012, there were 14,770 workplace homicide victims, or roughly 700 a year on average, according to federal government statistics.
Shootings account for the lion’s share of those. Gun violence resulted in 78% of the workplace homicides in 2010.
Because these types of cases tend to get the most public attention, they may seem more prevalent than they actually are.
“Nonfatal crimes” are much more common.
In 2009, there were 572,000 reports of them committed against adults at work, according to the Bureau of Justice.
Dvoskin suspects the actual incidence is higher, since a lot of people might not report being shoved up against a wall, or other relatively minor physically violent acts.
Overall, roughly 2 million workers a year are affected by some form of workplace violence.
That’s an estimate from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and includes everything from verbal abuse to physical assaults to homicide.
Workplace violence isn’t always about work.
It’s easy to assume “disgruntled workers” are usually to blame. But that’s not necessarily the case.
In two-thirds of workplace homicides, the assailant has no known personal relationship with the victims, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Then there are instances where a victim of domestic violence may be attacked by an abusive partner at work, said Christine Walters, a workplace violence expert who advises the Society for Human Resource Management.
What’s more, even when perpetrators of workplace violence are employees they may not take action because they’re unhappy on the job. “Sometimes they commit workplace violence because of something else going on in their lives,” Dvoskin noted.
And, he added, “there are a lot of unhappy employees, but most aren’t going to shoot anyone.”