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Workplace Violence—Everything You Need to Know

Workplace violence refers to any threat or act of intimidation, harassment, physical violence or any other disruptive behavior that is likely to occur at a place of work.

It often ranges from verbal abuse and threats to bodily harm or even homicide. It is something that may affect or involve visitors, customers, clients, and employees.

OSHA commends that employers assume a zero-tolerance policy against workplace violence that covers employees, customers and anyone else who may come in contact with the organization.

Such a policy may not only protects employees, contractors and others from violence, it also defends the employer if violence occurs.

OSHA recommends that employees should be trained on the organization’s policy, ways to alleviate the risk of violence, on spotting violence about to happen and how to handle violent situations.

Reporting Workplace Violence

A workplace violence prevention plan should always be implemented and taken seriously as it is not a light matter when violence happens in the workplace. Laws have been enacted to provide employees with the protection they need when working.

Whether it originates from an outside source, a fellow employee or even a superior in the workplace, all incidents need to be addressed immediately. Keep in mind that no single individual is immune to this kind of threat.

You can report workplace violence by:

  • Requesting the local emergency department for assistance. When the authorities arrive, ensure you provide all relevant details including the dates and time. If possible, include the names and description of possible witnesses or suspects.
  • Ensure you report the incident to your work supervisors. In many companies, this should be done at the HR department.
  • If no action is taken especially if it happens in your workplace get in touch with OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) offices.

17 Surprising Workplace Violence Statistics

  1. Each year, close to 2 million people report incidences of workplace violence. In 2001 for instance, 409 people were fatally injured in their places of work. Roadway incidents are classified as the number one cause of death for employees, with workplace violence coming a close third.
  2. From 1992 to 2012, 140 US government workers were shot and killed by a colleague while on the job.
  3. In 2013, there were 397 fatal workplace injuries that were ruled to be homicides.
  4. In 2014 the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 15,980 workers in the private industry experienced trauma from nonfatal workplace violence. These incidents represent a significant number of lost workdays.
  5. In 2012 Andrew Engeldinger, 36, worked for his shift one day  and was told after a dozen years working, he was told he had no longer had a job. He pulled out a 9mm Glock handgun and committed the biggest workplace massacre in Minnesota history. Killing 6 coworkers and then killed himself.
  6. 2014 A lone gunman shot and killed two co-workers before killing himself at UPS warehouse in Birmingham, Alabama, the worker was fired after 21-years of service.
  7. 2015 Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik dressed in black masks, armed with long guns and pistols, they entered a holiday party for county health workers in San Bernardino as it was in full swing. Before they fled, they had killed 14 people and wounded 17 others.
  8. Suicides at work reached an all-time high in 2011 with 270 documented incidents.
  9. Research shows the government employees rates of workplace violence are higher than any other employment sector.
  10. 88% of the most violent incidents in the workplace occur in service-related fields in private sector.
  11. Approximately 2 million American workers experience workplace violence every month.
  12. 85% of the workplace violence deaths that occur are caused by individuals who own guns.
  13. 30% of the incidents of workplace violence that happen to women come from a relative or direct personal associate.
  14. Nearly half of all workplace violence incidents occur in public environment.
  15. Taxi driver increases the risk of becoming the target of workplace violence by 20X when compared to other general working population.
  16. 47% of assailants are in the 35-54 age demographic.
  17. More than 40,000 acts of rape or sexual assault are perpetrated against women at work each year.

4 Examples of Workplace Violence

Generally, there are 4 types of workplace violence. These are:

  • Criminal Intent— This is where a perpetrator does not have any legit relationship with the employees or the business.
  • Client/customer— Here, the violent individual is deemed to have a legit relationship with a business.
  • Workeron-worker— This is classified as a type 3 incidence and will involve 2 or more employees.
  • Personal relationship— The violent person does not have any kind of relationship with a business or company but knows the intended person intimately.

13 Workplace Violence Prevention Training Guidelines

Every year, millions of workers are exposed to all kinds of violence in their places of work. Incidence varies in nature, but 1 out of every 5 incidents result in a fatality.

This is a big concern for the employees, employers and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is why workplace violence prevention training is being recommended for all businesses.

In general, training should cover the guidelines and procedures for a facility as well as de-escalation and self-defense techniques.

Both de-escalation and self-defense training should include a hands-on component. The following provides a list of possible topics to be covered in any workplace violence training.

  1. The workplace violence prevention policy zero-tolerance policy against workplace violence
  2. Risk factors that cause or contribute to assaults like drunkenness, work related stress and discrimination.
  3. Policies and measures for documenting patients’ or clients’ change in behavior;
  4. The location, operation, and coverage of safety devices such as alarm systems, along with the necessary maintenance schedules and measures to make them always reliable.
  5. Early acknowledgment of escalating behavior or recognition of warning signs or situations that may lead to assaults in the workplace.
  6. Ways to recognize, prevent or diffuse volatile circumstances or aggressive behavior, manage anger and appropriately use medications where applicable.
  7. Proper use of safe rooms—areas where staff can find shelter from a violent incident.
  8. A standard response action plan for violent situations, including the availability of assistance, response to alarm systems and communication procedures;
  9. Self-defense procedures where appropriate.
  10. Progressive behavior control methods and when and how to apply restraints properly and safety when necessary.
  11. Ways to protect oneself and coworkers, including use of the “buddy system” that is working in a team all the time where there is possibility of a violence
  12. Policies and procedures for reporting and recordkeeping;
  13. Policies and procedures for obtaining medical care, trauma-informed care, counseling, workers ‘compensation or legal assistance after a violent episode or injury.

Workplace Violence Training for Employees

Under the federal laws of the US government, all employers are required to ensure that they provide a safe environment for all their employees.

One of the topics covered under this is workplace violence. Their training should include:

  • Workplace violence impact
  • Responsibilities of an employer to prevent or reduce workplace violence
  • Responsibilities of the employees to prevent or reduce workplace violence
  • The various forms of workplace violence
  • Procedures to follow if one is a victim of workplace violence

OSHA Workplace Violence Statistics

When it comes to occupation injuries sustained by employees in the United States, homicide is among the leading causes of fatal injuries.

A recent survey by the Bureau of Labor shows that the highest number of workplace injuries recorded recently was in 2015, where the figure stood at 4,836. 403 of these were homicides.

Workplace violence can be reduced or prevented by equipping employees with training materials and books that will teach them the dangers of this kind of incidents.

They will also learn of the controls to apply if such an incident was to occur. Equipping them with materials is the best and surest way to ensure that they are all well informed.

They will also learn of the controls to apply if such an incident was to occur. Equipping them with materials is the best and surest way to ensure that they are all well informed.

14 best Workplace  Violence books for 2018

Violence in the Workplace: Education, Prevention & Mitigation

This book shows a practical, understanding guide which provides useful, proactive prevention strategies and defensive interventions that can save a lot in the workplace violence related cases. With this guide you will be able to learn these 10 guides and much more on:

  1. What lawful self-defense means to you
  2. Use the Art of Distraction to give you time to escape danger
  3. Survive an active shooter situation
  4. Respond appropriately to an emergent situation
  5. Recognize emerging situations before they turn violent
  6. Identify violence risk factors
  7. How to create long-lasting safety habits
  8. How the flight-or-fight syndrome is actually a lifesaver
  9. Escape and survive a workplace violence incident
  10. Deal with an agitated or dangerous individual

And much, much more

Potential: Workplace Violence Prevention and Your Organizational Success.

Every organization has an obligation to understand its essential dynamics, risks and costs to their business.This guide features the unique expertise on what organizations of all sizes can do to build an effective workplace violence prevention culture that boosts overall morale, health and productivity.

What readers Are saying about this book…

Being a Security Officer, I found this book helpful in explaining the thought process used in decision making at the corporate or upper management level regarding implementation of security policies.

This book looks at these corporate decisions and provides an alternate assessment of the potential for loss due to a workplace violence incident.

Workplace Violence Guidebook: Introductory but Comprehensive OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health).

This book is made for managers and employees to learn not only the regulations about conduct of workplace violence but also to learn signs of possible violence and how to deal with them.

These authors largely appear primarily to use their own experiences in suggesting intervention strategies, with fewer other references.

 This guide will covers OSHA approved programs, preventative measures, training and education  in workplace violence, worksite breakdown, security methods, courses of action in an incident, recovery after an incident, recordkeeping, and some few case studies.

Readers will enjoy the open-minded, compact, informal tone of the book. Those readers who wish to have an accompanying program with video and interactivity should also purchase the CD version.

Managers Guide to Workplace Violence: What Employees Expect You to Know-Audiobook

The Audio book is organized to take management through:

This audio is up to date with resource currently available to provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of knowledge regarding all aspects of workplace guide violence and hostility.

Classifying and planning for various potential violent events.
How to organize and protect from workplace violence from both management and employee standpoints.
Identifying training formats, content and what to do if law enforcement is on premises.
What to do if an event happens, how to identify evidence and how to preserve it.
Some of the legal issues surrounding workplace violence.
How to deal with difficult discharges.
A well detailed glossary of terms that is especially useful for a company policy manual and training.
It has a checklist to organize your policies, responses and protect employees and visitors to your premises.

Overcoming Mobbing: A Recovery Guide for Workplace Aggression and Bullying

This guide is an informative, comprehensive guidebook written for the victims of mobbing and their families. With engaging and reader-friendly style, the authors helps readers to make sense of the understanding and mobilize resources for recovery.

The authors distinguish what mobbing means  from bullying-in that it takes place in any organizational settings-and demonstrate how mobbing is not about the infrequent negative experience at work; rather, mobbing involves ongoing negative acts, both overt and covert, that over time demoralize workers’ confidence in themselves and in their workplaces environment.

Research shows that as many as 37% of American workers have experienced workplace abuse at some time in their working lives.

Workplace Violence: Planning for Prevention and Response.

This guide gives a comprehensive account of the problem using different approach to the issues surrounding workplace violence incidents, addressing how it affects victims, witnesses, the employees, family members, and organization.

In a Day’s Work: The Fight to End Sexual Violence Against America’s Most Vulnerable Workers

The author takes readers on a journey across the country, introducing us to women who came to America to escape grinding poverty only to encounter sexual violence in the United States.

The book exposes the in belly of economies filled with employers who take advantage of immigrant women’s need to earn a basic living. The book shows how the women got courage to speak.

Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace

This book defines what mobbing is. It shows how mobbing can affect employees by:

Force someone out of the workplace through rumor,





The guide shows how mobbing is a serious form of nonsexual, nonracial harassment. It has been legally described as status-blind harassment.

The book show how mobbing affects the mental and physical health of victims. It extracts staggering costs from victims, their families, and from organizations

Surviving Bullies, Queen Bees & Psychopaths in the Workplace

Targets of bullying are not powerless. Lawsuits are filed everyday against employers who tolerate or encourage workplace bullying.

This book helps both employers and workers understand the problem, evaluate their options and take constructive action.

Employers will learn the difference between tough and bullying management and how to respond effectively to bullying complaints.

Workplace bullying costs American employers billions annually in needless turnover, higher medical costs and expensive litigation. The author is a judge, attorney and expert in workplace bullying.

Handbook of Workplace Violence

In the Handbook of Workplace Violence, the authors bring together the contributions of leading researchers to provide summaries and unique perspectives on current theory, research, and practice relating to workplace violence.

This is the only up to date resource currently available to provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of knowledge regarding all aspects of workplace violence and aggression.

The authors of the book includes Kevin Kelloway, Julian Barling & Joseph Hurrell.

The book is divided into three parts:

Part I summarizes the leading theoretical perspectives on violence and aggression.

Part II focuses on leading experts in the field summarizing what is known about the sources of workplace violence.

Part III considers the experience of victims as well as individual and organizational interventions designed to prevent or improve the consequences of workplace violence.

The Workplace Violence Prevention Handbook.

This book would be useful for supervisors in any organization, because it extensively describes warning signs of workplace violence that are often overlooked.

The book is arranged in good logical order and to be very useful as a reference while putting together a training program on the topic of “Violence in the Workplace.

The book shows how left unchecked, workplace violence can lead to physical assaults and homicide.


Don Philpott is the former editor of International Homeland Security Journal and has been writing, reporting, and broadcasting on international events, trouble spots, and major news stories for over forty years

Preventing and Managing Workplace Violence: Legal and Strategic Guidelines

This book concentrates not just on defining workplace violence but also identifies possible settings where violence may be more likely to occur, how to recognize the signs, and what to do if you suspect an employee is a potential risk.

Post-9/11 safety concerns, what to do to minimize the occurrence of workplace violence, and employer liability are just a few of the other topics included as well

The Vibrant Workplace: Overcoming the Obstacles to Building a Culture of Appreciation

Any workplace can be healthy. It just takes knowledge of the issues and skills to navigate them, which is exactly what this book provides. Readers will be equipped to successfully overhaul their workplace environment and infuse it with authentic appreciation.

Readers will learn how to:

Assess what negativity is costing their company

Address the deeper issues under unhealthy dynamics

Make authentic appreciation the cornerstone of work culture

Apply the five languages of appreciation strategically

Bring out the best in their employees and teams
and more

Toxic Workplace!: Managing Toxic Personalities and Their Systems of Power

This book illustrates how to manage existing toxic behaviors, create norms that prevent the growth or regrowth of toxic environments, and ultimately design organizational communities of respectful engagement.

The author how to identify the toxic personality and describe the leader reactions and approaches that typically don’t work.

The reader see will be provided with  new insights on how leaders lead, how organizational cultures sustain themselves, and how teams deal with toxic personalities.

Final Word

If no action is taken at early stages workplace violence will continue to haunt companies seriously. If employees know what to do and have clear policies and actions to follow, then they can guard themselves and ultimately be more productive.

Hundreds of thousands of hours are lost and also that translates to millions dollar lost every year, many of them paid in sick leave, employees recruitment  vacation time, because of violence that happens at workplace. There should be motivation and training to stop violence because it is so expensive.


  • Martin,  

    Found your site doing some work search options. After reading and seeing some hard statistics you presented makes me not want to go to work again. I had the volume of incidents that were happening were work place related, gun shootings and over 40,000 rape, sexual assault in a year. That’s staggering.

    A place of employment should be a place we feel comfortable to go each day. Bad enough we have to work to provide for our families, it’s horrible to think it could be the place that puts our families at risk.

    I was in the military so many years ago and choose not to have a family till I was discharge so no worries of war, or a widowed family. Boy, was I naive then to think we have any reassurance in this world from the unknown. 

    Makes me realize, taking charge of my life and anything can happen, anywhere and anytime even at our workplace. 

    Thanks for providing this information so people can be aware of anything can happen at work, and some key points to watch, what to do and how to report such things.



    • As a fact Noke workplace violence comes in many versions. Its very important to be informed on what to do when and how to do it in case that happens. As a safety professional have seen different type of violence from racial,  gender, nationality and many more. Its the right of an employee to be educated on type of workplace intimidations  that he or she might have been assuming they are not form of violence.

      Thank you  

  • Workplace violence is very important to be aware of. It can happen at any time, in any place. That is why all employees should be aware of the procedures dealing with those situations.

    I like the “buddy system”, so I was happy to see you included that aspect in your blog. Everyone should have someone with them in case anything happens. It makes the workplace safer, and increases the chance of them getting help during a workplace violence situation.

    • Thanks Mandy, for the comment it’s true it can happen at any time and any place. 

      For employees to get to know all kinds of workplace violence they need training on how it can happen. Some behaviors observed in the workplace may be assumed not to be workplace violence but they really are. Training is the key thing here.


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