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Is workplace violence a problem in the veterinary practice?

With all the talk of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, the whole concept of security has taken on a new meaning in society today. Of course, those issues are important, but in the veterinary practice, the concept of security is a little more “down to earth.” As with any business, the veterinary practice is susceptible to robbery or burglary. The staff of the practice are susceptible to personal assaults or even homicide. Of course, other businesses such as convenience stores have a much higher risk of these acts of violence than does a veterinary hospital; however, as with any business that exchanges money or employs people, veterinary hospital staff members can be the target of selective or random acts of violence. We've covered this topic before, but we think it's time to revisit issue.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, homicide is the second leading cause of death to American workers (automobile accidents account for the majority of job-related deaths.) According to the Department of Justice, there are over 1 million people assaulted at work each year. Those incidents include an average of 615,160 simple assaults, 264,174 aggravated assaults, 79,109 robberies and 13,068 rapes.

When we think of workplace violence, we usually envision the "run-amok" employee scenario, but that's actually the rare event in the veterinary profession. Robbery, random acts of violence, estranged partners of employees and even irate clients are more likely scenarios for which the practice must prepare. In 1999, we even experienced a double homicide in a Maryland veterinary practice during a robbery.

OSHA has several guidance documents to help understnad and prevent workplace violence.  Although these recommendations are primarily aimed at convenience stores and similar establishments, there are plenty of useful ideas for the traditional and emergency veterinary practice. These recommendations do not carry the weight of a specific standard or requirement; however, OSHA’s General Duty Clause (section 5 of the Occupational Safety & Health Act) requires all employers to take any reasonable steps necessary to protect their employees from hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.

So, given the risks and the means to prevent the problem, it’s very appropriate and practical to make a veterinary practice safer from random acts of violence or even robbery.

The Real Purpose of Security

Robbery Prevention Tips

When You Have To Deliver Bad News

Back to OSHA Questions Page



Did You Know...?

In 2013, homicide was the leading cause of death for women in the workplace.  It was the second leading cause of death for all American workers (automobile accidents continie to be the first leading cause of death on the job in America).