Prevent Workplace Violence

“Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide.”

GRAND FORKS, ND – On August 26, two members of a small town television news team were shot and killed during a live report. According to police, the alleged gunman was a former terminated employee who had displayed anger toward the pair in the past. WDBJ7 reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were killed while conducting an on-air interview. The person being interviewed was also shot during the deadly incident. Her injuries were not life-threatening.

This is an example of how workplace violence affects not only employees but can involve clients, guests, vendors and visitors. Based on a 2010 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), over 10 percent of fatal workplace injuries were workplace homicides. In fact, the leading cause of death for women on the job is workplace homicide.

According to OSHA, despite many cases not being reported, nearly 2 million American workers each year report having been victims of workplace violence.


Create a Workplace Violence policy in your organization and include the following items as a minimum:

  1. State that the company or organization maintains a zero tolerance policy for violent or aggressive behaviors in the workplace, including: threats of violence, intimidation or any type of harassment.
  2. Show that the company is committed to workplace safety. Senior managers need to support this approach so that the company environment and culture support zero tolerance for violence and aggression.
  3. Describe company procedures that should be followed if violent behavior is observed by anyone in the organization.
  4. Show specifically how to report violence, threats, intimidating, or aggressive behavior
  5. Provide a description of concerns, supported by observations, fact, and if evidence is available (including email or voicemail evidence of threats or overly aggressive demands), this should also be included.
  6. If threats are made: show the threat language as closely as possible to what was actually said (verbatim if possible).
  7. Show what disciplinary measures may be followed, up to and including termination of employment.
  8. Include the policy in employee handbooks so that all employees have access to this information and know what to do and more importantly who they need to inform if a co-worker or manager exhibits this type of behavior.
  9. Train employees annually to recognize the warning signs for violence.
  10. Work with a threat assessment professional to evaluate the level of threat before it becomes more serious. Threat assessment professionals can often help to diffuse the potential for violence.

“Through our effective risk mitigation programs that include background checks and drug / alcohol testing, GSN is helping our clients reduce the chances of violent behavior at work.” – Robert Peterson, Chief Executive Advisor for Greenberg Enterprises


Starting with basics, employers should consider these practical steps toward workplace safety, each of which may not necessarily make sense for every employer:

  1. Install good lighting all around the employer’s premises.
  2. Provide adequate security in parking areas, common areas, stairwells, cafeterias, and lounges.
  3. Limit access to work areas.
  4. Discourage former employees from coming to visit.
  5. Install alarms and surveillance cameras, where appropriate.
  6. Arrange regular police checks or provide limited access to the premises during high-risk hours (e.g., late at night and early in the morning).
  7. Educate supervisors about personality characteristics that are correlated with potentially violent employees.
  8. Train supervisors in conflict resolution and observation skills.
  9. Periodically survey employee perceptions about working conditions, changes in work loads, equality of treatment, and problems with the work environment not addressed by management.
  10. Develop and implement a policy concerning violence and harassment that encourages the reporting of all incidents to the employee’s direct supervisor or a designated management official. All reports should be documented, as well as the findings of any investigation. Observations and statements by the individual accused of misconduct also should be recorded. When appropriate, local law enforcement authorities should be notified.
  11. Once the investigation is completed, take appropriate action to counsel, discipline, or terminate the offending violent employee as soon as possible.
  12. Provide counseling for employees who have been laid off or fired. Offer outplacement or Employee Assistance Program services if possible. These services have been shown to soften the psychological impact of job loss.

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