Interview: AIHA Member Tom Fuller Discusses Workplace Violence

Posted September 24, 2013
Updated October 2, 2013

Most workplaces are unprepared for workplace violence and can do more to ensure that employees are safe at work, according to AIHA® member Tom Fuller, ScD, CIH, MSPH, MBA, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Sciences at Illinois State University who works with businesses, local governments, labor organizations, and victims on workplace violence initiatives. During an interview Sept. 20 with Illinois public radio station GLT, Fuller said that employers need to be better prepared for all types of workplace violence, including incidents that capture media attention such as the Sept. 16 Washington Navy Yard shooting and homicides that occur at establishments like retail stores and bars.

“There’s this tendency to throw our arms up and say, ‘We can’t prevent [workplace violence] from happening,’” Fuller said. “There are many things to do both before and after the incident.”

Practical measures to improve employees’ safety include using physical controls such as lighting, cameras, alarms, and screening systems, Fuller said. He also mentioned structural considerations, such as having egress and locks on doors, and the need for written training programs that teach workers how to respond to workplace violence. “Most institutions don’t have written programs or get those out to their employees,” Fuller said.

Fuller also discussed the effects of workplace violence on victims, a concern that doesn’t typically involve practitioners of occupational health and safety. Victims can suffer from psychological disorders and depression, and Fuller raised the question of whether they should be covered under workers’ compensation. “These people have post-traumatic stress disorder and they need therapy,” he said. “Often, work won’t cover the therapy. As a result, these people get depressed and might have to lose their jobs.”

Fuller’s interview was part of GLT’s Sound Ideas podcast. To listen to the podcast, visit GLT’s Sound Ideas Web page. Fuller was more recently interviewed by WJBC, a radio station in central Illinois, on the topic of workplace violence.