It has only been four years since 13 county employees died in a mass shooting in California, and only weeks since 11 city workers in another state lost their lives in another shooting incident in a municipal center. How safe do you feel at work? Does your employer take responsibility for the safety of you and your co-workers?
Workplace violence has become a significant concern, and you would likely be one of many public employees who fear to report for work. If you work in an understaffed correctional facility, psychiatric hospital, youth detention center or another job that involves social services, the risks of being the subject of workplace violence are significant.
The threat is real
Violent incidents can happen to anyone at any time, and being alert and vigilant at all times might save your life. The following incidents that occurred in other states prove that the threats are real:
- A service worker who sat in his car writing up a report after re-inspecting a house with code violations died from a fatal gunshot fired by a suspected robber.
- A hit-and-run driver killed a public works employee who was filling potholes in the roadway.
- A school crossing guard succumbed to his injuries three weeks after a hit-and-run driver struck him.
- Two assailants kicked, punched and stabbed a parking enforcement officer multiple times. Why? Because he issued them a parking citation.
If you feel threatened at any time while doing your job, you have the right to step away from the situation without fear of reprimand by your employer. Violence is not the only occupational hazard public workers face. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health Administration prescribes strict safety standards that will protect you from known risks of your particular job. However, it is the unanticipated actions of others for which you must look out.
Although your employer might not be able to protect you from violence if your job takes you to remote or public areas, steps to mitigate on-site risks are available. Training sessions to learn what to do in situations that involve violence are crucial, and continued observation of existing and new employees could trigger early warnings of potentially violent actions.
How will you cope with the financial consequences of a violent attack?
If you fall victim to workplace violence, your medical expenses and lost wages might be overwhelming. Fortunately, as a public employee in California, the workers' compensation insurance system will have your back. Dealing with the legal and administrative proceedings of the benefits claims process could seem daunting, but an experienced workers' comp attorney can navigate the process while you recover and prepare to return to work.