Workplace Violence

Angela MackleyHuman Resources, Risk Management

Workplace violence has emerged as an important workplace safety and health issue. It is defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site”. Although there is not a single risk factor that can predict when a workplace violence situation may arise, companies need to be aware of behaviors and job tasks that may increase employee exposure.

When it comes to employee behavior, managers need to be on the lookout for tell-tale signs that a staff member might go down a darker path. Some examples of these behaviors include becoming increasingly belligerent, threatening colleagues, displaying outbursts of anger, and being preoccupied with violent themes in music, movies or materials.

Certain job tasks have been identified as having increased risk of experiencing acts of workplace violence, including having contact with the public, handling of money, delivery of passengers, working with unstable individuals, and working alone or late at night. OSHA has provided guidance on workplace violence on their website, including resources on Risk Factors, Prevention Programs, and Training. Industry specific publications are available from OSHA for Healthcare and Social Service Workers, Late-Night Retail Establishments, as well Taxi and For-Hire Drivers.

Employers need to assess their worksites to identify job tasks and scenarios to determine where there are potential risks of workplace violence. Written workplace violence policies should then be developed and communicated to employees. Ensure that employees know about the risks and receive training on ways to recognize and protect themselves from potentially violent behavior. Working with local law enforcement may also be vital in assessing risk, developing response plans, and training employees.

Resources and References:
OSHA Website: Workplace Violence
CDC: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH): Occupational Violence
University of California – Davis (UC Davis): Violence Prevention Brochure: Maintaining a Safe Workplace
Ready Houston Surviving an Active Shooter Event Video: Run. Hide. Fight.

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