Homicides in the workplace level off in the U.S.

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The number of homicides at workplaces nationwide was essentially flat last year, according to data released Thursday, Sept. 17, by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There were 403 workplace homicides in 2014, one fewer than the year before but down 35.8 percent from the 628 killings in 2007.

Nationwide, Asians and women were most affected by homicides at the workplace last year. About 24 percent of Asians killed at work were victims of homicide, while the average rate for all workers was 7 percent. In addition, women made up about half the homicide victims although they account for only 9 percent of all work-related fatalities.

Workplace homicides in U.S. 2007-2014

Local breakdowns of 2014 workplace homicides will be available next year. In the New York metro area, the number of workplace homicides in 2013 hit a low in the past decade with 23 deaths.

The New York metro area, defined by the BLS, covers parts of New York, New Jersey, Long Island and Pennsylvania.

Workplace homicides in N.Y. metro 2007-2013

Experts say patterns that explain changes in workplace violence from year to year are hard to define. Various factors account for the violence, and a single event with high fatalities, such as a mass-shooting, can spike the rate.

For example, from 2012 and 2013, the workplace homicide rate in the D.C.-Arlington, Va., metro area quadrupled following a mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard that left 12 people dead. In the New York metro area, the homicide rate dropped 40 percent during the same period.

“There is some variability year to year,” Bruce Bergman, an economist with Bureau of Labor Statistics said. “But unlike a sample survey, these numbers are not estimates… Each number is an incident where someone died.”

The BLS compiles the fatal-injury report based on media accounts and death certificates, in addition to self-reported administrative records from employers.

About 17 percent of all workplace fatalities nationwide were caused by intentional violence by others or suicides in 2013, according to another report with local breakdowns. the D.C.-Arlington, Va., metro area had the highest rate of workplace violence, making up for 41 percent of all fatalities. For the New York area one in four fatalities came from workplace violence.

2013 workplace fatalities by types in metro areas

“There has been an increase in homicides that involve co-workers and associates nationwide while those involving robbers or strangers decreased,” Bergman said.

In 2011, 49 homicides nationwide were committed by current or former work associates; in 2013 there were 74: a 51 percent increase.

Notably in 2013, a disgruntled vendor shot two workers at a lighting company in East Garden City, killing one. The gunman later shot himself and drowned in the Hudson River.

Since 2010, fewer people have died at work of homicides in New York metro area. The latest reported incident took place in August 2015 when a former federal employee fatally shot a security guard and himself in a lower Manhattan.

Rate of workplace homicides to all fatalities in N.Y. metro

Historical data tracking workplace homicides nationwide from 1997 to 2010 — a separate report with more details — indicates that workplace homicides have affected women disproportionately, more commonly in sales and protective service industry such as fire department, and that victims tend to hold managerial positions.

More men died at workplaces than women, making up 92 percent of workplace fatalities in 2014 since most injury- or accident-prone industries such as transportation, construction and protective services workforce are made up of male workers.

Women, however, were the victims of workplace homicides two-and-a-half times more often than men in 2013. For women, homicides were the second-highest contributor, after roadway incidents, for fatalities at work but second to last for men. In addition, more than one-third of assailants for homicides targeting women were relatives or domestic partners; for men, one percent of all homicides were committed by family members.

Workplace homicides in N.Y. metro by sex

“The distinct nature about workplace violence is that the victims can’t really escape. They have to go to work,” said Mia Fernandez, the executive director for the National Center for Victims of Crime, a D.C.-based advocacy group.

“Workplace crime against women tends to be highly targeted and planned,” Fernandez said.

In the New York metro area, 20 percent of work fatalities involving women were homicides since 2011, whereas for men it was 16 percent.

Industries where homicides were the leading cause of workplace fatalities include sales and protective service occupations. In the New York metro area, sales-related occupations made up about one-third of homicides victims since 2011.

Top 3 industries with workplace homicides in N.Y. metro

While the breakdown of overall fatalities by race was proportionate to the size of each group — more whites died at work since they make up a greater portion of the working population — blacks and Asians were most affected by workplace homicides; nearly two out of five African-American workers killed at workplaces were victims of homicides.

Workplace homicides rate in NY metro by race 2011-2013