Not working alone at night, outside lights can cut workplace homicides, study shows

(Embargoed) CHAPEL HILL -- Not allowing employees to work alone at night and providing good outside lighting around businesses open after dark can reduce workplace homicides, unique research conducted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shows.

Other individual precautions, such as installing video cameras and warning signs or increasing visibility of the work area from outside, also might help, UNC public health and medicine investigators say, but their study uncovered no evidence of that.

Homicide is the second leading cause of death in the workplace in the United States after motor vehicle crashes with an average of 20 fatal assaults on workers every week, said Dr. Dana Loomis, professor of epidemiology. We did our study to try to learn what steps can make a difference in reducing the toll.

A report on the findings, the first of their kind, appears in the Feb. 27 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Besides Loomis, authors are Dr. Stephen W. Marshall, research assistant professor; Susanne H. Wolf, research associate; Dr. Carol W. Runyan, director of the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center; and Dr. John D. Butts, N.C. chief medical examiner and professor of pathology and laboratory medicine.

Using statewide data from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, the team identified all 105 cases of murder on the job in North Carolina between Jan. 1, 1994, and March 31, 1998, and also, as controls, found 210 similar, randomly selected workplaces where homicides had not occurred. Detailed interviews with managers of the businesses, police and others -- along with computerized analyses and comparisons of workplace characteristics -- produced evidence of steps promoting worker safety.

Among environmental interventions, strong and consistent reductions in the risk of a worker being killed on the job were associated with bright exterior lighting, Loomis said. Among administrative interventions

Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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